The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) on Thursday issued initial guidance for implementing Senate Bill 181 enacted earlier this year, which requires regulators to revamp some oil and gas rules.
COGCC Executive Director Jeff Robbins said the final criteria provide discretion that will remain in effect until all the rulemakings are completed. Included is a mandate to change COGCC’s mission from “fostering” to “regulating" oil and gas activity.
In the meantime, COGCC may delay final permit applications under the 16 criteria aimed at protecting public health, safety and the environment. In addition, the commission could determine if permits meet the intent of the new law before rulemakings are completed.
COGCC oil and gas rulemakings that need to be completed include assuring activities protect and minimize negative impacts in public health, safety, welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources; establishing an "alternative location analysis" process for locations and facilities; evaluating potential cumulative impacts from activity; and ensuring compliance with rules covering all flowlines and inactive, temporarily abandoned and shut-in wells.
Robbins last month sought public input over draft objectives and incorporated some of the 340 public comments into the final guidance.
Colorado Oil and Gas Association CEO Dan Haley said the initial guidance does not change the "thorough and exhaustive" permitting review process already in place. The new law gives Robbins "unprecedented authority" to set criteria and "places a vast majority of permits within [his] singular oversight."
The industry, said Haley, is hoping "this repetitive examination is used to confirm details rather than to indefinitely hold up permits." The goal is for industry collaboratively to help assure the process is objective, he said.