COGCC ‘s new rules fail to address residential drilling crisis

January 25, 2016

COGCC, Colorado, task force

DACONO, CO - NOVEMBER 20: Oil and gas operations take place near homes near Dacono, November, 20, 2015. Colorado's population keeps growing as demand for oil and gas continues driving oil and gas exploration closer to dense development. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

Oil and gas operations take place near homes near Dacono, November, 20, 2015. Colorado’s population keeps growing as demand for oil and gas continues driving oil and gas exploration closer to dense development. [Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post]

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission met today in a marathon hearing session that lasted well past 6:00 p.m., to finalize new rules pertaining to task force recommendations No. 17 and 20.

No. 17 recommends collaboration between local governments, COGCC, and operators on siting of large-scale oil & gas facilities. No. 20 recommends that operators provide local governments with 5-year comprehensive drilling plans.

And in case there was ever any doubt, the commissioners heard from a litany of citizens, environmental representatives, and task force members declaring the governor’s task force a failure. With 30 to 40 percent of future drilling activity predicted to occur in residential areas, the rules as finalized today by the commission fall far short of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of Colorado citizens. Therefore, in spite of these “new rules.” there will be ballot initiatives introduced this election year that will address drilling near residential areas.

Today’s hearing was available on livestream and you can listen to the recorded version on YouTube.

Task Force Rulemaking – January 25, 2016 – Pt1

Task Force Rulemaking – January 25, 2016 – Pt2

These are the new rules adopted by the COGCC as reported by Greeley Tribune reporter Sharon Dunn:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Monday finalized new rules to enhance collaboration and communication with local governments when a large-scale oil and gas facility is located in an urban area, such as near a residential neighborhood. There were dozens of minor changes, but here is the gist:

  • The commission decided the definition of a large scale oil and gas facility in an urban area as a pad with eight wells, both vertical and lateral, and 4,000 barrels of oil storage on site, or essentially eight 500-barrel tanks. That size would trigger the consultation with a local government.

Citizen groups had sought to define that area as 45,000 feet of total drilling — half of what was originally proposed — and 2,000 barrels of oil storage at a site. The commission took out the drilling length to avoid confusion.

  • The rules would require operators to notify local governments within 1,000 feet of the large development for the consultation. The rules would not allow the government to restrict the development. COGCC approval of a permit would be predicated on an operators’ agreement with a local government. If there were no agreement, the issue would go before the commission for a hearing.
  • Nearby local governments, outside of the municipality in which a project is proposed, would not be given standing in the decision-making, though they would be notified if they were within that 1,000 feet.

Citizen groups had sought to send notifications to local governments within a mile of proposed developments. The groups also had request to notify residents within 1,500 feet of any proposed large urban drilling area. The state mandates notification of homeowners within 1,000 feet, but such notifications were not intended to be a part of this rule.

  • The rules also would require operators to provide proof of their search for alternative sites, and reasons why those sites were not considered.
  • Operators will have to notify surface owners of their intentions, and invite comment. Existing surface use agreements however, would be an exception to the rule to notify the landowner.

COGCC staff had originally approved a drilling limit, and one citizen group expanded on that, seeking a limit of 90 days for all drilling and completion operations at a well site, with a five-year grace period between drilling. Drilling times were taken out of the final rules, so that proposal wasn’t entertained.

  • Operators must register their five-year drilling plans with municipalities beginning May 1.
  • The commission stopped short of requiring operators to detail plans for drilling within municipal growth areas, which some groups had suggested.


Sara Barwinski, a task force member and former resident of Greeley who moved to Estes Park last summer to escape the impacts of oil & gas operations, specifically targeted her criticism at the COGCC.

Greeley Tribune: Colorado oil-gas commission adopts rules for locating wells in urban areas

DENVER — To the chagrin of residents who wanted to eradicate oil and gas drilling from residential areas in Colorado, the state commission governing oil and gas on Monday adopted regulations to enhance a local government’s role in the location of oil and gas wells.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission decided on the size of an oil and gas facility that would trigger a consultation with a local government, and it approved a set of rules to determine when operators had to consult with local governments on siting of a large-scale oil and gas facility in urban areas. The rules were part of the directive by the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force which wanted to craft rules to enhance local government involvement in large-scale oil and gas facilities in urban areas.

What the group didn’t do was draw a hard line — prohibiting all drilling from residential areas, which many resident and environmental groups had urged in the last few months.

Specifically Sara Barwinski, a member of the task force who recently moved to Estes Park from Greeley because of her proximity to oil and gas, told members Monday they were doing a disservice to Colorado.

“You delude yourselves if you think passing this rule solves any of the problems that Colorado is facing in oil and gas development in communities,” Barwinski told the group in its final hearing Monday. “It exacerbates the problem because impacted citizens will clearly realize they cannot trust the COGCC to meaningfully regulate the industry” …

… A growing problem will be that oil and gas production will increase throughout the state, and they will be closer to residential areas, said Dave Neslin, former director of the COGCC who was representing the industry response to the commission on Monday. As the population grows, it encroaches on oil and gas holdings.

“First, significant development will occur in and near urban areas in the future,” Neslin said. “You’ve heard from operators how they previously focused on remote areas, but much of that has been developed. There are at least two operators in Colorado who have told you their acreage in and near municipal areas now account for more than 30 percent of their holdings … and there will be substantial urban ground anticipated in next 25 years.”

Barwinski and others representing residents and environmental groups throughout Colorado on Monday chided the commission for catering to the “sociopathic” oil and gas industry’s desires with the proposed rules.

Barwinski warned if the group doesn’t change the rules to reflect the wants of residents and taking their safety into account, they would be kicking the can down the road. They would become a part of the political theater and invite citizen protest and ballot initiatives. Those against oil and gas drilling near people contend the industrial process involved with drilling is harmful to residents’ health, though there are state regulations that govern allowable emissions and protect waterways.

“The public deserves to know this rule is window dressing,” Barwinski said. “It won’t protect them when oil and gas comes knocking at their doors. If you don’t revise this rule, task force and COGCC will both have failed the people of Colorado” …


No one walked away from today’s hearing wearing a happy face. The biggest losers in all this are the citizens of Colorado. In the middle of the night in August 2014, Governor Hickenlooper and Congressman Jared Polis usurped the ballot initiative process from the hands of the people to form a task farce that only served to delay and deny the real work of protecting public health, welfare and safety in the face of encroaching oil & gas operations in their neighborhoods and thus their daily lives.

So here we are a year and a half later right back where we started. Meanwhile dozens more communities are confronted with the scourge of oil & gas development and hundreds more residents are at risk from the impacts of oil & gas operations in their backyards. When all is said and done the degree to which the state is willing to stick its neck out to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens depends on the bottom line of the oil & gas industry.

Daily Sentinel: COGCC acts on task force recommendations

State oil and gas regulators Monday approved rules intended to follow two key recommendations of a recent task force, winning mixed reviews from industry but considerable citizen criticism that the rules don’t go far enough to reduce conflicts between energy development and neighborhoods.

While passing the rules, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission members differed sharply on aspects of it, including how to define large-scale operations for purposes of triggering required consultation with local governments in urban areas …

… Josh Joswick, a former La Plata County commissioner and now an organizer with the Oil and Gas Accountabilty Project, said the rules don’t begin to address the crisis facing the state.
“This is what you come up with after the task force’s work?” he asked incredulously. “This is what you’ve distilled as their recommendations?”

Dave Neslin, an attorney for industry and former COGCC director, told the commission the rules it was considering “will provide a useful and creative framework” for better coordination between the COGCC and local jurisdictions when large oil and gas facilities are proposed near communities.

But he added, “We will all need to continue to work together to find common ground on these sometimes difficult and contentious issues” …

… The COGCC staff’s latest proposal was that large urban-mitigation-area sites would consist either of proposed new wells with a combined wellbore length of 90,000 feet, or a site with at least 2,000 barrels of storage tank capacity for oil and gas products.

Interests including Adams County and Leslie Robinson of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance in Garfield County said sites with 45,000 feet of combined well length should meet the definition of large sites.
Industry called instead for such sites to be defined as ones with more than 12 new horizontal wells or 16 vertical/directional ones, or more than 9,600 barrels of hydrocarbon storage.

The COGCC voted 5-4 Monday to define such sites as having at least eight wells and 4,000 barrels of storage. Alward had called for a lesser number of wells as a trigger for defining large sites. He warned against setting thresholds for what’s a large site too high.

“If they are too high, citizens will not have the confidence that what’s happening in their neighborhood is safe,” he said.

The consultation process includes a requirement for mediation where a local government and a company can’t agree on a site. If a local government doesn’t agree to mediation or it isn’t successful, the matter goes to a COGCC hearing.

The new rules also require additional mitigation measures and best management practices at large urban-mitigation-area facilities to address possible impacts.

Community groups such as the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance had contended the rules will apply in too few cases, and questioned why only residents in urban areas will benefit from it, rather than anyone living near large facilities. Robinson told the commission the measures pertaining to large-scale facilities should apply any time they are within 1,500 feet of homes …

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One Comment on “COGCC ‘s new rules fail to address residential drilling crisis”

  1. Barbara Coddington Says:

    Thank you Peggy.

    On Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 9:46 PM, From the Styx by Peggy Tibbetts wrote:

    > Peggy Tibbetts posted: “The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission > met today in a marathon hearing session that lasted well past 6:00 p.m., to > finalize new rules pertaining to task force recommendations No. 17 and 20. > No. 17 recommends collaboration between local govern” >

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