A bill to require oil and natural gas companies to meet enhanced water and air emissions standards in order to earn streamlined state environmental permitting was introduced Tuesday by the majority leaders of both houses in the Colorado legislature.
SB 284, which was assigned to the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, would require the state Department of Public Health and Environment to provide "expedited" permitting for oil and gas operators who certify that they'll use technology that meets "enhanced environmental and human health protection standards."
Similar fast-tracking of permits would be given in the water quality area when companies meet enhanced standards. The measure is supported by both Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll and House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst.
As written in the initial bill, the public health/environment department could develop expedited review and enhanced standards through Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (OGCC) guidance, incorporate them as part of an existing rulemaking proceeding related to oil and gas air emission controls, or through a separate rule adopted by the OGCC.
Oil and gas operators' compliance histories may be used to help determine if they qualify for expedited review, according to the bill.
The proposed law also specifies some facilities that would not be eligible for fast-track treatment, including ones subject to federal prevention of significant deterioration permitting programs, federal nonattainment new source reviews, or those out of compliance with existing federal or state air pollution requirements.
With the continued acceleration of drilling in Weld County north of Denver, air and water quality concerns are increasingly being raised. The OGCC weighed in with tougher standards on drilling and setbacks for wells earlier this year (see Shale Daily, Feb. 12; Jan. 10).
The amounts of water required in hydraulic fracturing and Colorado's continued drought conditions also tend to put more focus on oil and gas operators.