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Colorado Oil/Gas Regulators Reach Out to Local Governments

The Colorado Oil/Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) recently began a series of 11 meetings with local governments to discussion implementation of two recommendations for more local involvement in oil/gas activities from a statewide governor-appointed task force that concluded its work in February (see Shale DailyFeb. 25).

After two outreach meetings, the COGCC already has heard that definitions for what are considered large oil/gas projects need to vary with each jurisdiction. Lafayette Mayor Christine Berg made that point Wednesday in a second outreach meeting that was held in Broomfield, one of a half-dozen local jurisdictions in the state that have enacted restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the past two years (see Shale DailyNov. 18, 2013).

Currently, the COGCC rules do not define a large-scale oil/gas facility.

As part of the nine recommendations submitted to Gov. John Hickenlooper by the 21-member local control task force, several were aimed at the COGCC, and two of those are the subject of the outreach meetings: Nos. 17 and 20 dealing with local government consultation by oil/gas operators and local registration requirements for those operators, respectively.

Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley said her group, a division of the American Petroleum Council (API), welcomes the series of meetings, and she pledged to share the group's expertise in standards development. Bentley pointed to API's recent development of a "first-of-its-kind industry standard for community engagement."

This is the start of the commission's rulemaking process, COGCC officials said. Recommendation No. 17 deals with local government collaborations with oil/gas operators regarding locations for "large-scale oil and gas facilities." Feedback at Wednesday's meeting in Broomfield indicated the local governments want wide flexibility in determining what is meant by large-scale in each community.

Recommendation No. 20 is more straightforward, proposing that oil/gas operators registered with the COGCC also register with each of the local communities in which they have operations. It was intended to provide a framework for incorporating oil/gas operators' drilling plans into municipalities' comprehensive local planning.

COGCC staff have said on the commission's website that they will hold meetings on the Front Range (Broomfield, Brighton and Weld County) and the Western Slope and in La Plata County. "COGCC will begin drafting proposed rules after these initial outreach meetings (through Aug. 11), and will conduct formal stakeholder meetings in late summer or early fall," a COGCC spokesperson said.

In seeking to establish a rule on local collaboration,COGCC staff said the intent is to have a process in which local governments and operators can agree on site locations and operational practices. Under the recommendation, operators would be obligated to consult with local authorities before selecting a location for drilling operations.

"One objective of the outreach meetings is to discuss how to create an effective and efficient local government consultation process," the spokesperson said.

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