Colorado Oil & Gas Enforcement


These Colorado enforcement web pages were written as part of the research that went into Earthworks' COGCC: Enforcement Report

Inadequate enforcement causes irresponsible development

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission fails to achieve its mission to “foster the responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas natural resources.” due to its inadequate enforcement of its own rules.

Under current regulatory enforcement:

Colorado enforcement hasn't kept pace with the drilling boom

Colorado, like many other states, has experienced a drilling boom in the last decade – the number of active wells almost doubled from 22,228 in 2000 to 43,354 in 2010. With a potential shale gas and shale oil boom on the horizon, Colorado is positioned to see even more drilling in years to come. But regulatory enforcement has not kept pace with drilling, and as a result, Colorado’s public health, safety and the environment have suffered.

Colorado Oil & Gas Related Spills
Colorado Oil & Gas Related Spills

As seen in the above chart compiled from COGCC data reported to the Water Quality Control Commission, there’s been a large increase in the number of oil and gas related spills over the past seven years.

One possible reason for the increase: there's no real incentive for operators to replace faulty equipment or train employees to prevent spills:

The five CO spills that led to penalties in 2011
CO 5 spills that received penalties
Click chart thumbnail for larger view

In 2011, the COGCC imposed fines for a mere five spills, all of which had happened in previous years.

In 2010 and 2011, Noble Energy had more spills than any other operator (126 spills – 81 affected ground water, 6 surface water), yet in 2011 it received an Outstanding Operator Award for environmental protection from the COGCC.

Congratulating the worst spill offender for its efforts at preventing pollution sends the message to both the public and other operators that spills don’t matter and there are no real consequences for breaking the rules.

For more information:


1: COGCC Inspection/Incident Inquiry. Select Spill/Release. Search Operator: Noble. Other companies with large number of spills in 2010 and 2011 included Kerr-McGee (124) and Encana (114).

Tagged with: regulation, enforcement, colorado

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