Colorado oil-and-gas industry regulators on Monday launched a process that may revise state rules to expand buffer zones between new wells and homes and require groundwater testing before drilling.
But the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation commissioners also warned that toughening rules could hurt companies.
Commissioner DeAnn Craig, an industry consultant, called for weighing costs and benefits before any change is made.
“What are we trying to achieve by changing the setback rules?” Craig asked during a commission meeting held in Steamboat Springs. “What risks are we trying to mitigate?”
Requiring greater setbacks of wells from buildings could prevent extraction of oil, she said.
“If there’s a loss of value to the owner of these resources, will there be a reduction in taxes?” she asked.
The commissioners nevertheless voted 6 to 1 to start a three-month process that COGCC director Matt Lepore said will include at least two public hearings.
“There’s still a lot of detail to fill in,” he said.
Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment sent a representative who said his agency supports considering new rules.
The decision reflects widening public opposition and efforts by more than a dozen municipalities and counties to impose local restrictions as oil and gas drilling moves closer to urban communities. State officials are concerned that unless state rules get tougher, a patchwork of local government rules will create uncertainty and delay.
A proposal floated by COGCC staffers, after 11 sessions with stakeholders, addresses setbacks and calls for mandatory monitoring of groundwater.