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COGA Slams Colorado's Tentative Drilling Rules

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) last month leveled strong criticism at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) after state regulators provisionally passed a set of stringent regulations to protect drinking water and manage odors at natural gas drilling sites.

Reacting to the accelerated pace of gas drilling in the state, which is up 60% in the past four years, the Colorado legislature last year directed COGCC to draft rules to protect public safety, the environment and wildlife at drilling sites. The COGCC is projecting a record 6,950 drilling permit applications this year alone.

"The rules that the commission provisionally approved...reflect substantial input and proposed language from a variety of parties, including oil and gas companies, local governments and environmental and citizens' groups," said COGCC acting director Dave Neslin.

Although the regulations require a second vote before passage, the COGCC, which includes industry representatives, unanimously approved nearly all of the rules package in August. Among other things, drillers under the new rules would be:

Harris Sherman, a COGCC member and also executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said the rules are needed because of "the tremendous activity" in some of Colorado's gas-prone areas.

COGA President Meg Collins called the rules process "flawed."

"As we have said before, as proposed, these rules are unnecessary, costly, foster business uncertainty and go well beyond the intent of the Colorado General Assembly," said Collins. She said the energy industry is "hopeful" that the COGCC would adopt rules to address "real, documented problems" and not adopt Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's "narrow, anti-industry political agenda."

After sitting through the "show" of hearings by the COGCC, "the point industry keeps hammering remains true: The process would have been much smoother and the end results much better for Colorado if the governor had directed the commission to conduct a bona fide stakeholder process that fosters sound public policy," said Collins.

Three more hearings are scheduled for Sept. 9-11 by the COGCC to consider more rules that would, among other things, minimize the impact of drilling on wildlife, require more detailed applications with a public notice provision and require stronger liners in waste pits at drilling sites. Once the rules are completed, the COGCC would cast a second vote to finalize the package. The rules, if enacted, are scheduled to take effect in October 2009, according to the COGCC.

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