Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC)

KUNC File Photo

The new-look Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission held its inaugural meeting on Tuesday as it begins rewriting state rules to emphasize public safety and the environment instead of energy production.

It's the first time the commissioners have met since Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed a law mandating sweeping changes in regulations.

Oil well
Maarten Heerlien / CC BY 2.0

Opponents of a new Colorado oil and gas law that puts public safety ahead of production said Thursday that they will not attempt to overturn it this year, but they may try in 2020.

They had planned to ask voters in November 2019 to repeal and replace the law, but last week the Colorado secretary of state's office rejected four versions of their proposed ballot initiative. State officials said the proposals violated a law requiring initiatives to address only one subject.

Matt Bloom / KUNC

The Senate passed sweeping oil and gas legislation on Wednesday, confirming several House amendments requested by industry representatives concerned about its economic impacts. The bill now heads to Gov. Polis’ desk, where he’s expected to sign it.

Oil and gas
Matt Bloom / KUNC

The Colorado House passed a major overhaul of oil and gas regulations in a final hearing Friday morning, sending the legislation back to the full Senate one last time to approve amendments.

Lawmakers voted 36-28 to approve Senate Bill 19-181. One House member was absent.

A fiercely contested oil and gas project in a residential neighborhood outside Denver cleared a major hurdle Tuesday when state regulators approved a request by an energy company to drill for reserves that belong to dozens of people, including some who don't want to participate.

Oil and gas tanks
Joe Mahoney / I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS

A bill making its way through the state Legislature is challenging several long-standing practices within Colorado's oil and gas industry, including "forced" or "statutory" pooling.

That's when companies can drill in a certain area without consent from all associated mineral right owners. The practice has been around for decades, but is facing fresh criticism as Colorado's population balloons and oil and gas development creeps closer to neighborhoods north of Denver.

Photo by Kirk Siegler

Update 11:43 a.m.: Gov. Jared Polis said he’s disappointed in the Colorado Supreme Court's ruling on a landmark oil and gas case. In a statement, Polis said the case "highlights the need to work with the Legislature and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to more safely develop our state’s natural resources and protect citizens from harm."

KUNC File

Colorado oil and gas regulators voted Tuesday to expand the mandatory buffer zone between new wells and school property, a rare victory for proponents of tighter rules for the industry.

The state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will now require that new wells be at least 1,000 feet (305 meters) from any outdoor area or building used by schools and day care centers.

The old rules required the same size buffer zone but measured it only from buildings, not outdoor areas. That allowed wells to be drilled closer to playgrounds and sports fields.

KUNC File Photo

Colorado oil and gas regulators are considering enlarging the mandatory buffer zone between new wells and school property.

A proposal released by the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission late Wednesday afternoon would require new wells to be at least 1,000 feet (305 meters) from buildings as well as outdoor areas that schools use, such as playgrounds and athletic fields.

Current rules require the same size buffer zone but measure it from school buildings, not outdoor areas. That allows wells to be closer to playgrounds and similar facilities.

Rae Ellen Bichell / Mountain West News Bureau

In July 2018, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order requiring that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission identify abandoned, or "orphaned," oil and gas sites across the state.

The commission has until July 2023 to either plug up or remove equipment at sites deemed “high priority,” based on risk factors including population density, impact on livestock/wildlife and history of venting or leaking.

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