Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Colorado a Model of Irresponsible Oil and Gas Development

Energy
Colorado a Model of Irresponsible Oil and Gas Development

Earthworks

On March 20 Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project released a new report, COGCC: Inadequate enforcement means current Colorado oil and gas development is irresponsible. Part of a national assessment of state oil and gas regulatory enforcement, highlights of the Colorado-specific findings include:

  • As the number of wells drilled increases in Colorado, the number of inspections is decreasing.
  • It is physically impossible for existing Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) inspection staff to inspect every well once per year.
  • Many rule violations are not recorded, and very few violators are penalized.
  • For those who are penalized, $1000/day maximum fines are inadequate to deter irresponsible operations.

“The COGCC’s mission is to foster responsible oil and gas development by balancing drilling with protection of landowners, public health and the environment," said Gwen Lachelt, Earthworks’ OGAP director. “Right now, the COGCC’s rules, like its mission statement, are just empty words on a page. There is no balance here,” she said.

As this report is released, the Colorado Legislature is considering whether to follow Pennsylvania in stripping local governments of the ability to regulate oil and gas development. If local control is removed, only the COGCC will regulate drilling within the state. Other legislative proposals would require counties to adopt ‘a one size fits all’ set of oil and gas regulations rather than being able to adapt to local conditions. On Colorado’s Front Range, which is experiencing a drilling boom, many local governments are considering ordinances that prohibit drilling within city limits, in part because of the state’s inadequate enforcement.

“When it comes to oil and gas drilling oversight, the Legislature should not make things worse,” said Bruce Baizel, Earthworks’ OGAP senior staff attorney. "This report shows that the COGCC does not have it covered when it comes to drilling oversight. If anything, the Legislature should consider slowing COGCC’s permitting until they get their house in order," said Baizel.

The COGCC’s role in enforcing state regulations is particularly important because many federal environmental statutes contain special exemptions for the oil and gas industry.

“The COGCC’s failure to enforce its own rules highlights the need to close oil and gas loopholes in the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act,” said Lauren Pagel, Earthworks’ policy director. “COGCC’s inadequate performance shows why citizens need to have federal standards, as well as state regulations. In Colorado’s case, state regulation means inadequate regulation, and therefore, irresponsible development," she said.

The report closes with common-sense recommendations to improve COGCC enforcement of oil and gas development regulations including increasing inspection staff, standardizing and publicizing inspections, and increasing fines for violations.

“Responsible gas development cannot occur without adequate enforcement,” said Earthworks’ Gwen Lachelt. “To fulfill its mission to ‘foster responsible development’, COGCC must hire enough inspectors to adequately enforce existing regulations, publicly report and track violations, and use penalties to provide a credible deterrent to irresponsible operations.”

For more information, click here.

A Marathon Oil refinery in Melvindale, Michigan on June 9, 2020. The Federal Reserve bought $3 million in the company's bonds before they were downgraded, bringing taxpayers' total stake to $7 million. FracTracker Alliance

A new report shows the U.S. government bought more than $350 million in bonds issued by oil and gas companies and induced investors to loan the industry tens of billions more at artificially low rates since the coronavirus pandemic began, Bloomberg reported.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A September 17 report by the Rhodium Group calculates that 1.8 billion tons more greenhouse gases will be released over the next 15 years as a result of climate change rollbacks the Trump administration has achieved so far. Pete Linforth / Pixabay / CC0

By Karen Charman

When President Donald Trump visited California on September 14 and dismissed the state Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot's plea to recognize the role of climate change in the midst of the Golden State's worst and most dangerous recorded fire season to date, he gaslighted the tens of millions of West Coast residents suffering through the ordeal.

Read More Show Less

Trending

President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on February 04, 2020 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

By Jan Ellen Spiegel

It wasn't so long ago that the issue of climate change was poised to play a huge – possibly even a decisive – role in the 2020 election, especially in the race for control of the U.S. Senate. Many people supporting Democratic candidates saw a possible Democratic majority as a hedge against a potential Trump re-election … a way to plug the firehose spray of more than 100 environmental regulation rollbacks and new anti-climate initiatives by the administration over its first term.

Read More Show Less
Native American girls from the Omaha tribe attending the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania, the first government-run boarding school for Native American children. © CORBIS / Corbis / Getty Images

Two lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday addressing previous actions the U.S. government inflicted upon Native Americans.

The bill, authored by Rep. Deb Haaland from New Mexico and Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, specifically addresses the "intergenerational trauma" caused by policies that tore Native American children away from their families and sent them to boarding schools to be educated in white culture, HuffPost reported.

Read More Show Less
Fall is with us and winter is around the corner, so the season for colds and flu has begun — joining COVID-19. monstArrr / Getty Images

By Gudrun Heise

Just as scientists are scoring successes in coronavirus research, new problems are on their way. Fall is with us and winter is around the corner, so the season for colds and flu has begun — joining COVID-19.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch