Profits over public health

It’s that time of year again when Colorado activists, who might otherwise indulge themselves in a little holiday shopping and baking, or decorate their homes and fence posts, instead band together and even trek to Denver for what is becoming an annual exercise in futility – the COGCC rulemaking process. Last year it was fracking disclosure regulations. This year it’s setbacks and groundwater sampling and monitoring.

Setback Rule Change:  “In February 2012, the Commission (COGCC) initiated a setback stakeholder group to identify potential issues associated with the Commission’s existing setback rules. Nuisance impacts associated with oil and gas operations, including odor, noise and light impacts were among the issues identified and discussed. The purpose of this rulemaking is to address such concerns … The Commission will consider additions and amendments for statewide setbacks applicable to drilling and well servicing operations, high density areas and designated outside activity areas, and, aesthetic and noise control regulations …” The setback rule applies to places of residence and public places such as schools, rather than to streams or other water bodies.

COGCC access to all Setback rulemaking process documents

Water Quality Sampling and Monitoring Rule:  Water quality sampling and monitoring is currently recommended by the state as a best management practice for Oil and Gas Operators. The proposed rule change will make the sampling and monitoring a requirement and provide specific stands for implementation.

COGCC access to all Water Sampling and Monitoring rulemaking documents

COGCC access to Public Comment process

COGCC Public Announcements

COGCC’s first rule making hearing was held November 14. The groundwater sampling and monitoring rule is expected to be finalized at hearings on December 10-11. No final deadlines have been set regarding setbacks. Hearings may still be scheduled into January 2013.

Recent articles in the news –
Attorney: Setback proposals bad for Garfield County
Says current rules are better for locals than the proposed changes

Garfield County OK with minor changes to oil, gas rules
Two commissioners feel rules are fine as they are

As you can see, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about irrigated hay or the flow of oil and gas, the state of Colorado puts profits over public health. No doubt when drilling commences in the WRNF, we will be told that trees matter more than people.

My snarkasm is not meant to disparage the diligence of the good people involved in the rulemaking process. I honor the efforts of Leslie Robinson, Frank Smith, Matt Sura, Bob Arrington, Dave Devanney, Judy Jordan, Thomas Thompson, Duke Cox, and others too numerous to mention from all over the state who are involved in this process. Yet any one of them will tell you that behind the curtain the oil & gas industry pulls the strings. The best thing to come out of these COGCC rulemaking sessions/hearings is they generate a lot of publicity so more and more people become aware of air and water quality issues related to oil & gas drilling. They begin to realize Colorado’s image as a healthy place to live is just that — an image. Therefore more and more people become involved in this gargantuan effort to protect and defend public health and the environment.

This post is meant as a primer to bring you up-to-speed on the status of the rulemaking process. In the coming days and weeks I will bring you the latest news and information. Your comments and guest posts are welcome here.

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