State’s oil and gas commission stiffens penalties for violations

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RBC I The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has approved rule and policy changes that significantly increase penalties for operators violating commission regulations.

The rule changes are designed to further deter violations and encourage prompt compliance. They include increasing maximum daily penalty amounts from $1,000 to $15,000 for each violation as well as eliminating a $10,000 overall penalty cap for each violation. They also clarify the commission’s ability to assess a penalty for each day that evidence demonstrates a violation occurred.
“This marks a considerable change in the way we do business; Toughening major penalties for violators is an important component of our ongoing efforts to strengthen our oversight, enforcement and compliance program,” said Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
The changes to commission penalty and enforcement rules approved by the General Assembly this year, as well as advance policy changes consistent with the executive order from Gov. John Hickenlooper issued in 2013, directed the commission to review, propose rules and adopt guidance regarding its enforcement and penalty assessment procedure.
The rule changes follow a six-month public process that began after legislation became effective in June. The toughened penalty rules are the latest in numerous changes to state regulations related to oil and gas development. Since 2011, Hickenlooper’s administration has crafted rules to increase setbacks, reduce nuisance impacts, protect groundwater, cut emissions, disclose hydraulic fracturing chemicals and increase spill reporting.
The commission has also significantly increased oversight staff, intensified collaboration with local governments and sponsored ongoing studies to increase understanding of impacts to air and water.