New Colorado oil, gas rules could affect very few sites

By Dan Elliott, Associated Press – November 16, 2015

DENVER (AP) — New rules intended to ease tensions over oil and gas drilling near Colorado communities might have only limited impact, affecting as few as 1 percent of future sites, an analysis by state regulators shows.

The two proposed rules would give local governments a consulting role when energy companies want to put big facilities near homes, schools and businesses. Regulators would have more authority over such facilities, which would include sites with multiple wells or storage tanks.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates drilling, drew up the proposals and will hold hearings on them Monday and Tuesday in Denver.

The rules were designed to address conflicts that arise when Colorado’s growing cities and oilfields expand into each other. Residents complain of around-the-clock noise and lights from nearby drilling rigs, and they worry about spills and air pollution.

But only 13 drilling and storage sites approved over the past two years — 0.8 percent of the total — were in areas that would be covered by the new rules, the commission’s cost-benefit analysis said. And one of those facilities wouldn’t be considered a large site and wouldn’t be subject to the regulations.

Proponents of tighter regulations said that was too little, but energy companies said the proposals are too restrictive. Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the oil and gas commission, said the agency wouldn’t comment.

“As written, the draft rules are nearly meaningless,” said Matt Sura, who served on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s oil and gastask force, which recommended the two rules, among others. Sura is an attorney who represents landowners and local governments in negotiations with energy companies.

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