Earlier this month, the COGCC released an updated rulemaking schedule that you can see here. The Commission also held a hearing on the financial preparedness of the Commission in the face of the oil market crash; and the COGCC released the last set of strawdog rules for the mission change rulemaking – covering issues like wastewater injection wells (COGCC 800 Series Rules), venting and flaring (COGCC 900 Series Rules), and wildlife (COGCC 1200 Series Rules).
The most pressing deadline for the general public is now on Friday, May 15th for feedback on the initial drafts of the 800, 900, and 1200 Series Rules. This feedback must be sent to the Commission by 5:00 pm on Friday, May 15th. You do NOT have to be a party to submit your comments on these strawdog rules! Click here to submit your feedback today!
This is a great opportunity to influence the COGCC staff to improve the rules before the actual rulemaking hearing since this is only the COGCC’s first public draft – not the final proposed rule.
The strawdog rules are a significant improvement, but, a few key areas of each rule that would help protect public health, safety, and welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources.
You can find the draft rules in their entirety here. The link goes to a Google Drive folder the Commission is using to host the draft rules. You can comment as many times as you like, and you can raise as many or as few issues as you feel comfortable. Below, you can find a few suggested topics listed by rule series that you can address in your comments.
800 Series Wastewater Injection Wells
- Local Government Authority: local governments have the authority to prohibit drilling injection wells within their jurisdiction, and the COGCC should clarify that they will not approve an injection well that the local government has denied.
- Transparency: The process for assessing applications for injection wells is transparent, and takes public comment into consideration, especially when groundwater could be impacted.
- Testing and Monitoring: The Commission must require more frequent testing for injection wells. Once every five years is far too little testing to ensure that our groundwater resources are not being contaminated. Testing should be at least annual.
900 Series Venting, Flaring, Waste Management
- Venting and Flaring: Flaring and venting are dangerous, harmful to our health, and a waste of our natural resources. Both provide a direct conduit for greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and contribute both to local air quality issues and broader climate change problems. The strawdog rules’ must go further to address the issue and protect public health, safety, welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources. For example, lack of access to pipeline networks to collect natural gas is a reason to deny applications, not a reason to allow flaring. If operators cannot collect the gas they are producing, they should not be allowed to drill and operate wells.
- Cumulative Impact Assessments: The Commission’s plan to conduct cumulative impact assessments on the oil and gas industry, and its contribution to climate change and air quality issues, but we need to make sure that such a study is conducted in a meaningful timeframe. We need firm and early deadlines for this work, so that future rulemakings may be more effective, and to make real, meaningful regulations to protect air quality and our environment.
- Use of Pits to Manage Waste: Waste management with oil and gas operations is extremely important. Colorado operators should not be allowed to maintain pits for waste management during drilling or production. Waste pits are hazardous to our health and safety, and the environment, and must be prohibitted.
- Waste Management Plans: Waste management plans must be mandatory. Operators must a have a waste management plan in place to deal with the associated waste.
- Leak Detection and Monitoring: The Commission must require leak detection and repair for all waste facilities in the State.
1200 Wildlife and Biological Resources
- Wildlife and Biological Resources: SB181 demanded the COGCC protect wildlife AND biological resources. The Rule Series should be title “Wildlife and Biological Resources.: Further, The Commission must adopt a definition of biological resources that includes habitat AND plant communities as well as wildlife.
- Mapping: The strawdog rules unnecessarily limit the information the COGCC can consider when it is assessing potential wildlife impacts. CODEX, the Colorado State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) and the Colorado Natural Heritage Program all have at their disposal extensive maps and GIS data that could better inform the COGCC’s assessment process. The rules should be revised to require consultation with these and any other relevant data regarding potential impacts to wildlife and biological resources.
- Species In Need of Protection: While the current rules rely on CPW’s High Priority Habitat designations, and include a short, enumerated list of species that will be protected by these rules, the list is incomplete and fails to address potential impacts to all plants and animals as required by SB181. At the very least, the rules should reflect the Species of Greatest Conservation Needs listed in the State Wildlife Action Plan. SB181 is not limited to only to species like elk and mule deer.
- Discretion: The strawdog rules should not allow the Director to overturn recommendations from CPW regarding conditions of approval to protect wildlife. If CPW believes that conditions are necessary, the Director must include them in the final recommendation. The Rule must recognize that CPW findings when the application would have unavoidable impacts to wildlife and biological resources, it must be denied.