Colorado regulators pass tougher rules for companies that spill oil

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December 18, 2013, 10:05 am

Colorado oil and gas regulators on Tuesday passed new, tougher rules for companies that spill oil or exploration and production waste.

The new regulations, passed unanimously by the nine-member Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), stem from House Bill 1278 (pdf) that passed last session and lowered the threshold for mandatory reporting of spills from five barrels (210 gallons) to one barrel (42 gallons) outside of secondary containment.

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Colorado regulators Tuesday passed tougher rules for drilling companies that spill oil (file photo).

HB 1278, sponsored in the state House by Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush of Steamboat Springs, also required the spill to be reported to the COGCC and the lead local emergency responder within 24 hours.

The COGCC codified the new law, which went into effect on Aug. 7, in its regulations on Tuesday.

The previous threshold for such reporting spills both inside and outside of containment was 20 barrels, and operators could wait 10 days to report any spill between five and 20 barrels. The new regulations still require24-hour reporting of any spill that impacts or threatens state waters, occupied structures, livestock, public byways or surface water supplies.

“These are important improvements to our spill reporting requirements and improve our ability to track and respond to spills and releases across Colorado,” COGCC director Matt Lepore said in a press release Tuesday. “These regulations will improve the public’s confidence in our ability to protect public health, safety and our environment.”

Citizen activists and environmentalists along Colorado’s heavily drilled northern Front Range have been demanding tighter regulation of the booming oil and gas industry, including greater setbacks from water sources in the wake of September’s devastating flooding.

“This is a very small step in the right direction to protect the people and environment of Colorado from the toxic impacts of oil and gas drilling and cancer-causing fracking chemicals,” said Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action

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David O. Williams
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington) ESPN.com, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery County Gazette (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, SKI Magazine, Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily and the Vail Trail. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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