Thursday, January 10, 2013
Colorado To Undertake Major Study On Oil And Gas Emissions
The state is set to launch this summer a significant study of emissions tied to oil and gas development. The project will provide information about how oil and gas emissions behave, how they travel and their characteristics in areas along the northern Front Range. A second phase would assess possible health effects using information collected in the first phase.
Testimony at this week's Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rulemaking hearing reinforced the views of experts for both industry and the conservation community that more and better science is needed related to oil and gas emissions.
"This study marks another important step in our aggressive efforts to ensure oil and gas development is conducted with the highest standards of environmental protection," said Colorado Department of Natural Resources executive director Mike King. "We know that strong regulation and strong science build public confidence in this economically critical industry, one that provides thousands of jobs and energy that we all depend upon every day."
This emissions study is the latest action from the Gov. John Hickenlooper administration to build upon Colorado's robust regulatory approach to oil and gas development. Last year, Colorado developed a national model for the disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids, forged stronger, more collaborative relationships between state and local regulators, increased oversight staffing in difficult budget times, opened the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's water quality database to public access on the Internet and strengthened rules to reduce emissions.
This week the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved rules that are among the strongest in the country for monitoring and protection of groundwater. Only two other states have mandatory groundwater programs in place and no other state in the country requires operators to take post-drilling water samples. The Commission is also considering enhanced steps to limit drilling impacts near occupied buildings.
"We are working with all stakeholders to find the careful balance that protects the public and addresses legitimate concerns while ensuring that the oil and gas resources necessary to our economy can be safely developed," said Dr. Chris Urbina, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will contract with Colorado State University to conduct the study. It would be similar to an ongoing CSU-led study of oil and gas emissions in Garfield County. The first phase of the study is projected to cover a three-year period from July 2013 through June 2016. A second phase to develop a health risk assessment would begin in January of 2016.
As part of his budget request to the Joint Budget Committee, Governor Hickenlooper will seek approval for $1.3 million from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's Environmental Response Fund to provide initial funding for the project. The ERF is comprised of proceeds from oil and gas development.