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Groundwater Sampling Approved As Regulators Continue Mulling New Oil And Gas Rules

Jim Hill

State oil and natural gas regulators are heading into a second day of hearings on proposed new drilling rules.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved new groundwater protection rules Monday. The ruling makes Colorado the first in the country to require energy producers to sample nearby water wells both before and after they drill.

Only two other states have mandatory groundwater sampling programs in place. Only Colorado requires operators to take post-drilling groundwater samples.

“This new set of groundwater monitoring rules once again puts Colorado in the forefront of thoughtful and progressive regulatory oversight of energy development,” said Matt Lepore, director of the Commission in a press release. “We worked earnestly with many stakeholders to develop a groundwater rule that provides strong protections and that we believe strikes the right balance among many interested parties.”

Colorado’s rules will require sampling up to four water wells within a half-mile of a new oil and gas well before drilling, and two more samples of each after drilling – once within a year, and a second time after between five and six years. The rules will be different in the Greater Wattenberg Area in northeastern Colorado, where the state program will exist alongside an already-developed Weld County water testing program.

The new rules follow a year-long voluntary groundwater sampling program designed with input from regulators and energy producers.

The COGCC is expected to hear from residents Tuesday on proposals to restrict drilling within 500 feet of homes. The hearings conclude Wednesday in Denver.

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