Craig Dave Neslin, the acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said Thursday that concerns raised in the ongoing process of updating the rules for energy development have been incorporated into a new set of clarifications.
"These clarifications respond to comments and proposals made by stakeholders and the public in our continuing effort to write the best rules possible to balance large-scale energy development with protections for our water, air, communities and wildlife," Neslin said in a news release.
He said that the clarifications reflect work by the COGCC staff, the Colorado Department of Public Health, Safety and Environment and the Colorado Division of Wildlife after extensive meetings with a wide range of interest groups and the public.
"The clarifications demonstrate that acting director Neslin and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation staff have listened to the concerns raised by the various interests, especially about drilling restrictions, and responded to them," Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction said in the release.
Neslin said the misconception that the rules will impose an annual 90-day drilling moratorium throughout western Colorado is addressed in the clarifications, which outline the several options available to energy companies to avoid such restrictions.
Energy companies will be able to drill 365 days a year by developing comprehensive drilling plans covering multiple well pads over larger geographical areas, consulting with the DOW or by limiting well density, Neslin said.
"The rulemaking has been and is continuing to be a truly public process," Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, said. "The COGCC staff should be commended for the days they've spent hearing from the energy industry, local elected officials, sportsmen, property owners and the public.
"The oil and gas industry must discontinue the assertion their concerns are being ignored and should function as responsible partners in this endeavor," Schwartz said. "The staff listened, heard and responded with the clarifications."
Neslin said the clarifications also will allow energy companies that initiate a consultation process or a comprehensive drilling plan by Dec. 1 to have a 16-month window before the new wildlife restrictions go into effect Jan. 1, 2010.
The 90-day timing restrictions will go into effect as early as Dec. 1 for companies that decline to purse the other options.
"We are trying to encourage companies to do landscape level planning or work with the DOW," Neslin said. "We want to provide enough options so drilling can continue year-round and protect wildlife."
Western Colorado, where most of the state's energy development is occurring, also is home to the largest deer and elk herds, Gold Medal fisheries, prime cutthroat trout populations and diminishing populations of sage grouse.
"I'm heartened that these clarifications make it clear that no energy company will have to shut down drilling operations for 90-days a year unless they want to," Buescher said. "The draft rules provide several options for industry to work with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. There are enough opportunities for a variety of win-win situations for year-round drilling."
Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, also expressed satisfaction that the clarifications acknowledge several issues that have been presented to him.
"Representatives from major oil and gas companies operating in southwestern Colorado have come to me with major concerns about provisions within the rules. If adopted, these proposed changes would address some of these major concerns."
The ongoing rulemaking process will continue June 23 to 25 when the Commission meets in Denver at the Paramount Theater, 1631 Glenarm Place and June 26 to July 1 at the Denver Athletic Club, 1325 Glenarm Place.
The public will have the opportunity to speak on the morning of June 23, and there will be signup sheets for those who wish to comment.
The COGCC will hear presentations by the interested parties in the afternoon and during the rest of the week.
The Colorado Legislature authorized the rulemaking in House Bills 07-1298 and 1341 to offset the impacts of energy development on public health, water, air and wildlife.
Gov. Bill Ritter signed the bills into law in May 2007. The clarifications are available on the COGCC homepage at http://oil-gas.state.co.us/