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.
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