Colorado Oil And Gas Regulators Approve Groundwate Testing Requirement
Oil and gas companies will be required to test the groundwater around new drilling operations in Colorado beginning May 1.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Monday approved new rules requiring energy companies to test up to four domestic water wells within a half-mile radius of all new oil and gas wells both before and after drilling begins. The rule aims to ensure that drilling and fracking are not contaminating groundwater.
A slightly different rule applies in parts of Northern Colorado called the Greater Wattenberg Area. There, groundwater must be tested at least once within each quarter-section of the area, or every 160 acres, where new oil and gas wells are being drilled.
Statewide, the groundwater sampling rules are expected to cost the state and oil and gas industry $20.7M, excluding the voluntary water sampling program energy companies have in place. The cost assumes about 1,850 new oil and gas wells are drilled statewide each year, COGCC Director Matt Lepore said.
The rules represent an effort by oil and gas regulators to protect Colorado’s groundwater, Colorado Department of Natural Resources Director Mike King said.
“Let’s be honest,” King said. “What we’re doing with this rule is trying to get the public comfortable.”
The rules, he said, “are an important piece of insurance” that build up the public’s comfort level with groundwater protection.
Both environmentalists and the energy industry criticized the new rules.
The Environmental Defense Fund called the testing requirements the “weakest rule in the nation,” while the Colorado Oil and Gas Association issued a statement that called for less frequent groundwater monitoring.