Colorado unveiled a proposed new set of guidelines for oil and natural gas production in the state in a series of stakeholder meetings last Tuesday in Denver, drawing questions and concerns from the industry. The proposal won't be posted on the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission's (O&G commission) website until Dec. 14 to allow some initial feedback from stakeholders to be included. The deadline for finalizing the new rules is July 1 next year.

Presented as a 30-page document, state officials called the proposed rules mandated in a new Colorado law as a "work in progress," according to press reports. Separate meetings were held with oil/gas industry representatives, environmental groups, and agriculture and local government officials.

New state laws require the O&G commission to extend its existing mandate to "protect public health, safety and welfare" to include specifically protecting the "environment and wildlife." Thus the commission now is required to consult with the state's public health/environment department, along with its wildlife division, before a new oil or gas well is drilled.

The energy industry representatives' initial comments ran the gamut from "guarded" to "shock and disbelief," according to reports.

An EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. representative told media his company was "reserving judgment," but it had already urged the commission to make sure its eventual rules are "based on sound science and fact" as opposed to what he called the "emotion" evident in a lot of the testimony offered in the meetings Tuesday.

For the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the ongoing rulemaking process is its "number one concern" currently and it sees a lot of unknowns that need to be clarified. For the environmental sector, representatives see the new rules as a good thing that ideally will assure that the energy industry "functions in a balanced, responsible way."

Under the proposed rules, the O&G commission's purview will be expanded from reviewing subsurface drilling and underground operations to include activity and environmental concerns above ground. They include:

Officials with the O&G commission indicated that some companies are already following some of the new rules, and in that regard, the regulations will be "raising the bar to where some of the better companies are already at," according to a Business Journal report. But the publication also quoted a contract operator for about 100 wells in northeastern Colorado as calling the proposed new regulations "scary."

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