The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) reconvened Thursday in Denver, but was unable to resolve lingering issues and delayed until Feb. 11 finalizing new setback requirements for oil and natural gas wells.

The record in the on-again, off-again case was reopened and stays open until Monday, according to a source at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) who attended the morning session. In addition to procedural issues, COGCC decided to back off some provisions regarding adjacent landowner notification and the idea of not differentiating between rural and high-occupancy areas.

A provision for having local government designees require adjacent property owners be notified before operators could gain variances from the proposed 500- and 1,000-foot setback requirements was dropped because of legal concerns, and the elimination of differences between rural and populated areas that now exist was dropped also, the COGA spokesperson said.

As a result, the nine COGCC members will go back into deliberations on the draft rule next month before approving a final version, which could happen at that time.

Thursday’s meeting and a subsequent executive session were necessitated after a provisional nonbinding 7-2 vote Jan. 9 on a draft of the new setback rule, which will have a significant impact on exploration and production (E&P) operators, along with a new water sampling rule finalized on Jan. 7 (see Shale Daily, Jan. 11).

While the adjacent landowner notification and the rural-populated differentiation were issues of concern to E&P operators, COGA’s spokesperson said the further delay just added to already too much time spent on the new rule.

A major concern at COGA is the statewide expansion of setbacks to 500 feet (rural) and 1,000 feet (high occupancy); it has endorsed the current shorter setbacks (350 and 750 feet, respectively).

COGA supports “a more holistic approach” backed by a coalition of E&P operators, such as Anadarko, Encana, Noble and PDC Energy. It advocated:

Instead, what COGCC has put on the table, COGA argued, potentially has severe economic repercussions for various major sectors of the state’s economy.