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Coordinated Regulation, Not New Laws, Recommended for Colorado

April 23, 2012
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Coordinated regulation of oil and gas development is needed in Colorado, but no new laws are needed to achieve such an approach, according to a report from a task force created earlier this year by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

"Task force members agreed that coordinated regulation through a collaborative approach was more desirable than duplicative or conflicting rules within or across local jurisdiction," according to the 12-member task force.

The task force determined that coordinated regulation could best be achieved by expanding and improving the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's (COGCC) Local Government Designee program, opportunity to use local inspector's through COGCC's delegation authority, and more robust communication on enforcement matters.

The report includes calls for COGCC to develop minimum qualifications and a training program for delegated inspectors, and for improved communications between the state government, local governments and industry organizations. At the same time, the task force said it had "discussed jurisdictional issues regarding substantive regulations, but determined that drawing bright lines between state and local jurisdictional authority was not realistic or productive."

The debate over oil and gas regulation has heated up in Colorado as the Niobrara Shale has become more active. According to NGI's Shale Daily Unconventional Rig Count, the Niobrara-DJ Basin had 11 rigs running as of April 13, up seven from a year ago. Anadarko and Noble Energy Inc. have both touted the liquids potential of the region (see NGI, Nov. 21, 2011).

At least three towns in Colorado have adopted moratoriums on oil/gas development (see NGI, Feb. 20). Officials in Erie, CO, took their action while acknowledging that towns in the state have "limited authority when it comes to the oversight of oil and natural gas operations within their boundaries." Concerns being discussed in Erie and other localities include air and water quality monitoring.

The task force was created by Hickenlooper in February to help clarify and coordinate the regulatory jurisdiction between the state and local governments over oil and gas operations.

"We want to protect public health, the environment and wildlife and to avoid duplication and conflict between different regulations of oil and gas activities," Hickenlooper said at the time. "We expect these efforts to also help foster a climate that encourages responsible development and enhances existing cooperation and coordination between state and local government."

The task force is chaired by Mike King, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Members include representatives from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, COGCC, Colorado Counties Inc., the Colorado Municipal League, the Colorado Petroleum Association, COGA, Colorado Conservation Voters, the Colorado House of Representatives and the Senate, and the office of the state's attorney general.

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