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Liner Disposal Workaround Sought in Colorado

The Colorado Petroleum Association (CPA) is changing its strategy to seek permission for operators to bury plastic liners used in wastewater pits at drilling sites.

CPA President Stan Dempsey told NGI that the nonprofit organization was working with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and some local governments to develop a workaround allowing on-site liner disposals to resume.

"All is not lost," Dempsey said Tuesday. "Our path forward is to develop a different regulatory alternative and deal with this through the solid waste laws. It's a promising idea, but the details haven't been hammered out yet."

Dempsey said the organization hoped to forge a certificate of designation plan with state, county and local governments -- especially Rio Blanco County -- that would allow some operators to bury liners on-site with exploration and production (E&P) waste, something they were permitted to do before COGCC overhauled state regulations in 2009 (see Daily GPI, March 26, 2009).

On Monday the CPA withdrew its petition for COGCC to amend Rule 905, which required operators to dispose of liners in landfills. Dempsey said operators were now spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to send the liners to Utah for disposal.

Michael Freeman, an attorney with the environmental group Earthjustice, told NGI on Tuesday that the group supported the CPA's efforts but encouraged operators to consider recycling the liners or migrating to pitless systems.

"Most companies have complied with Rule 905 without trying to permit their well sites as landfills," Freeman said. "A lot of them have gone to pitless drilling systems. But for whatever reason, one or more of CPA's members don't want to take that approach. They apparently hope that they can find a way to permit their own well sites as landfills in a way that is cheaper than recycling them or just going to pitless systems."

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