COGCC approves new fines

January 5, 2015

COGCC, Colorado, oil and gas drilling

Absorbent booms on Parachute Creek [COGCC photo]

Absorbent booms on Parachute Creek during Parachute Creek spill of 2013. Over 14,000 gallons of hydrocarbons spilled and contaminated soil and groundwater.  Williams was never found in violation and never fined. [COGCC photo]

COGCC adopts new fine schedule
By Dennis Webb

Energy companies will face fines generally ranging from $200 to $15,000 a day per day of rules violation under a new penalty structure passed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission this morning.

The agency adopted the new fines structure after the state legislature last year raised the daily penalty limit from $1,000 to $15,000 for each violation.

Today’s action came on a 5-3 vote, with some commissioners worrying that the fines established for less-severe violations are too hefty.

“I think it’s going to create issues,” said Commissioner DeAnn Craig.

She fears the potential for higher fines could lead to some companies deciding to abandon wells, leaving the responsibility of plugging them to the state.

Commissioner Mike King, also executive director of the state Department of Natural Resources, said that while abandonment of wells is a concern for the state, it’s a separate issue from fines and involves companies showing “no responsibility whatsoever.”

Commissioner Rich Alward of Grand Junction said the higher fines will transfer the risks of spills from state residents to the companies.

He added, “Operators will find ways to avoid violating our rules if there are real consequences.”

Under a schedule establishing standard penalties, the $15,000 fine can occur in the case of violations that create a high risk of health, safety and environmental impacts, and in which those impacts actually occur. The $200 fine is for violations of paperwork or other rules presenting no direct risk of causing harm, and in which no impacts occur. Commission staff had recommended a $500 standard fine for these violations.

With the exception of the $15,000 fine that can go no higher under state law, the newly established fine amounts can be raised or lowered based on aggravating factors such as knowing and willful misconduct and mitigating ones such as self-reporting of a violation.

Read more:  State stiffens fines against energy firms

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Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approves tough new fines for violations

… Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said the rule is another step toward COGCC’s goal to build a regulatory approach in the state that sets the standard for the rest of the country.

“This marks a considerable change in the way we do business,” Lepore said. “Toughening major penalties for violators is an important component of our ongoing efforts to strengthen our oversight, enforcement and compliance program” …

Colorado toughens fracking penalties

… The state’s mainstream environmental community said the new rules are a big improvement. Previously, fines for “moderate” violations were levied at the complete discretion of the commission.

“This is good news for Coloradans concerned about heavy industrial oil and gas development occurring near their homes and schools,” said from Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado.

“It is important to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for significant violations, not only to act as a deterrent but to protect the health and safety of Coloradans and our environment,” Maysmith said.

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4 Comments on “COGCC approves new fines”

  1. Frack Files Says:

    This dialogue is a joke. The industry admits knowing they’re assaulting us living in the gas and oil fields. What kind of a state are we living in??

  2. Fiona Lloyd Says:

    “The state’s mainstream environmental community”……. that’ll be the one the Industry approves of, no doubt. The one that thinks poisoning our air and water is a good deal for $15,000 a day.

    The rest of us, the ones who don’t want drilling in our communities, are the fringe whack jobs.

  3. Frack Files Says:

    The fines are just considered the “cost of doing business”. I believe there should be some jail time for repeat offenders. Why should we the citizens that live and work amongst the poisonous gas and oil fields be subjected to any toxins?

  4. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    In the case of the Parachute Creek spill, the state determined that the leaky valve was an “accident” and not negligence even though the valve leaked for more than 2 weeks. Matt Lepore acted like Williams’ defense attorney at public meetings. It was a quite a spectacle. Like we all couldn’t see it.

    The state makes all these rules and fine schedules and they hold these up to the people and say, “See we’re doing something about this so you don’t have to.” And Frackenlooper brags that Colorado has the strictest O&G regs. And COGA does a public handwringing session that regulation is hurting the industry. And this is all designed to pacify us, to make us shut up and go away. But it’s all bullshit because the state and local govts don’t inspect and they don’t enforce the rules. And then when an operator is in violation — usually blatant cuz that’s what it takes to get the state’s attention — then the state uses their built-in loopholes to let violators off the hook. Like Williams.

    All of which makes the COGCC’s new fine schedule arbitrary and meaningless.

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