State unveils draft of its new oil, gas regulations

RBC (AP) — A proposed rewrite of Colorado’s oil and gas regulations would take less time to process drilling applications and require less consultation with state agencies than envisioned in preliminary rules.
A preliminary plan intended as a concept touched off debate starting in January when it was released during public hearings across the state. State officials said about 80 percent of the preliminary proposal was changed to reflect concerns from the industry and others.
A new application form that industry representatives said would take at least three months to fill out has been yanked. The ability of adjacent landowners to protest oil and gas facilities has been eliminated.
Dave Neslin, acting director of the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the main regulatory agency, said the draft rules would require less consultation with state wildlife, health and environment experts.
“We believe the changes improve the draft rules,” Neslin said during a briefing for legislators and others.
The proposed regulations released Monday would implement two new laws requiring that more weight be given to health, wildlife and environmental concerns when making decisions about oil and gas development.
The push for new rules was fueled by Colorado’s unprecedented natural gas boom. Colorado issued a record 6,368 drilling permits last year, six times the 1999 number. Currently, 34,000 wells are active statewide. Tens of thousands of new gas wells are expected on federal land alone over the next 20 years.
“The boom continues unabated,” Neslin said.
The number of drilling permits approved in the first quarter of this year rose by 33 percent from the same period last year. If the pace continues, Neslin said the state could issue up to 8,000 permits this year.
The oil and gas commission will consider the draft rules and hold public hearings. The goal is to adopt the rules by July. State officials have recommended that the rules take effect in November.