After more than three months of rulemaking, those rules have now come into clearer focus. When considering drilling permits, state regulators must account for previous environmental impacts to nearby communities. New wells must be located to avoid any harm to aquatic habitats and critical wildlife species. Certain chemicals will no longer be allowed for hydraulic fracturing.
Routine flaring or venting will not be permitted, requiring operators to use other methods to get rid of excess natural gas. Environmental advocates say Colorado is only the second state to enact such a restriction.
“Colorado is once again a national leader in protecting public health and safety thanks to today’s new oil and gas rules,” said Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado.
Colorado isn’t new to setting the pace on state oil and gas restrictions. In 2014, the state became the first in the country to crack down on methane, a potent greenhouse gas able to escape from wells and pipelines.
In a statement, Dan Haley, President & CEO, Colorado Oil & Gas Association, said the additional rules mean, “Colorado now undoubtedly has the toughest oil and natural gas development regulations in the country.”
The commission also gave final approval to a controversial 2,000-foot setback between new wells and occupied buildings. Operators can apply for exceptions through four so-called “off ramps,” which could allow drilling as close as 500 feet to homes and schools. For example, an exception could be granted if companies develop “substantially equivalent” protections for public health and safety. Operators could also have property owners or tenants sign a waiver to allow drilling within the buffer zone.
After the vote, Robbins declined to estimate what proportion of wells would receive exceptions.
“They will be used when they’re appropriate and they will not be used when it’s not appropriate,” he said. “It’ll be a case-by-case basis.”
Read More: Colorado Has A Brand New Set Of Oil And Gas Rules With A Focus On Regulating The Industry