Oil and gas regulatory framework playing catch-up
Denver Post | Mark Jaffe
December 15, 2013
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Colorado regulators, in some cases pushed by grassroots groups and legislators, have enacted several new rules aimed at overseeing oil and gas drilling.
"When these booms come, the regulatory framework is always slow catching up," said Bruce Baizel, head of the Durango-based Oil and Gas Accountability Project.
The state has adopted rules requiring disclosure of the ingredients in the frack fluids pumped into wells, increasing setbacks for drilling from homes and schools and mandating groundwater testing before and after drilling.
There is a rule pending before the state Air Quality Control Board requiring oil and gas operations to capture 95 percent of their pollutants — including the nation's first rule to control methane emissions.
"We are making efforts to address each issue," said Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
The commission is expanding its inspection staff to 28 from 17 and adding additional personnel as well, Lepore said.
Still, environmental and community groups had pushed for bigger setbacks and even more inspectors, and criticized the water rules because the Wattenberg Field, where most of the drilling is taking place, has a less rigorous standard than the rest of the state.
"The state is doing a good job trying to catch up, but there is still a lot of work to do," said Dan Grossman, regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund.