Close to 6,000 permits to drill are expected to be issued by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) before the end of 2010, which would the third-best number ever and 16% higher than in 2009.

The COGCC last year approved 5,159 permits to drill oil and gas wells. In COGCC's staff report issued on Nov. 29, 5,687 permits already had been approved, and there were several hundred pending permits.

At the height of the gas drilling boom in Colorado regulators issued a record 8,027 permits. The 2008 record broke the one in 2007, when the COGCC issued 6,368 permits. More than one-third of the 2010 drilling permits have been for Weld County, according to COGCC data.

Despite protests from some of the General Assembly's GOP members, the state enacted more stringent drilling rules in 2009 (see Daily GPI, April 24, 2009). At the time Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who was instrumental in securing the rules package, said it was important because of increased drilling activity and technological advances.

State Sen. Greg Brophy said in 2009 when the rules were established that Ritter had taken "final action in his campaign to destroy the oil and gas industry...If there was any other industry struggling like the oil and gas industry, the state government would reach out its hand and ask, 'how can we help?' Instead, this governor shoves them over the cliff."

Instead of leaving the state, the increased volume of permits over 2009 suggest that producers have "figured out a way to work with that," COGCC's Thom Kerr told the Denver Post. Kerr is permit and technical services manager.

One key to keeping gas producers in Colorado busy may be the state's Clean Air-Clean Jobs law, said Kerr. The law, which Ritter and the gas industry promoted, was enacted last April (see Daily GPI, April 20). It requires Xcel Energy Inc. -- the state's largest investor-owned utility -- to replace more than 900 MW of coal-fired capacity with natural gas and alternative fuels (see Daily GPI, Dec. 13).

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