October 8, 2015
Boulder County Commissioners Respond to COGCC Task Force Rulemaking Draft
Boulder County Board of Commissioners: State draft rules fail to protect neighborhoods from oil and gas development.
We’ve reviewed the draft rules concerning Large-Scale Oil & Gas Facilities that were issued last night by the COGCC, and find that the proposed rules fail to protect people in residential areas in any meaningful way from the serious impacts of oil & gas development.
Rather than proposing rules that would protect residents from the impacts of oil and gas development, the COGCC proposal provides a mechanism whereby even the most massive oil and gas developments can be approved by the state and located near residential neighborhoods. By doing so, these proposed rules do nothing to consider the kinds of protections residents repeatedly ask for at the local and state level.
Although Boulder County and many other governments have been involved in the rulemaking process from the very beginning, it has been discouraging to see just how little local input has been incorporated into any public recommendations. It is obvious the interests of industry hold greater sway in the process than the collective view of many local governments.
- As written, the rules would apply only to Large-Scale Facilities in Urban Mitigation Areas, leaving all other areas outside of these narrow boundaries unprotected from large facilities.
- Furthermore, these proposed rules use an exceedingly narrow definition for “Urban Mitigation Area” that doesn’t capture many neighborhoods that make up Colorado residential communities, and uses an extremely large metric (about 8 horizontally drilled wells) for what constitutes a large facility.
- Lastly, these rules would only apply to operations on about 1% of unincorporated Boulder County’s Wattenberg Field, and where the rules would apply, the state would look first to industry-proposed “best management practices” to address the potential for fires, explosions, and toxic emissions.
One of the few positive components of the proposed rules – a requirement that oil and gas operators provide long-term drilling plans to municipalities – does not even extend to counties. Unincorporated areas of counties, where most drilling occurs, would remain in the dark about industry’s plans – this despite the fact that many areas within unincorporated counties contain housing developments that are indistinguishable from those in cities and towns.
Even if this rulemaking effort wasn’t set up to solve most of the oil and gas issues that demand attention, it should have at least taken on the serious issues that are created when oil and gas developers seek to locate massive industrial facilities near where people live – whether those people live in cities or towns, unincorporated subdivisions, or just on the family farm.
-Board of County Commissioners
Cindy Domenico, Deb Gardner, Elise Jones
On September 8, 2014, Governor John Hickenlooper signed an Executive Order that established the Oil and Gas Task Force. The Task Force was a part of a compromise that Governor Hickenlooper reached with US Congressman Jared Polis that resulted in the withdrawal of four oil and gas ballot initiatives: two reform initiatives and two industry initiatives. The Task Force was made up of 21 people, equally divided between three different groups: oil and gas industry representatives, local government and conservation community representatives, and “distinguished Coloradans” that had varied backgrounds. Governor Hickenlooper required at least a 2/3 majority for any proposal to have administration support. Only nine proposals passed with broad support.
Two of those proposals, #17 and #20, are the subject of the upcoming COGCC rulemaking. These two proposals dealt with two main issues: 1) Additional mitigation requirements for large scale oil and gas facilities and, 2) giving local governments a meaningful role in the COGCC’s oil and gas siting decisions.