In response to emissions study, COGCC expands range of drilling permits subject to further review

DENVER  — The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is expanding the range of oil-well permits subject to additional scrutiny after it and state health officials released a study on the health impacts from emissions.

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, COGCC director Jeff Robbins said the agency will immediately begin applying the stricter rules for any drilling operator that wants to build a well within 2,000 feet of a home. The current range for additional scrutiny is 1,500 feet from an occupied home.

The new regulations will apply to 39 permits awaiting approval, including 27 in Weld County, two in both Larimer and Boulder counties, and one in Adams County.

However, the new rules do not apply to wells currently operating within range of a home.

“There are certain wells in the pre-production phase now… those wells have a vested right to continue because they received approval from the state to operate,” Robbins said.

Thursday’s new rules come with the release of a modelling study from the COGCC and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to measure volatile organic compound emissions from wells in Northern Colorado and Garfield County in the far west section of the state using emissions samples and weather data from 2016.

It determined that there are short-term health risks such as headaches, nausea and nosebleeds for people breathing air near an active well, especially if the well is in a backflow or there are adverse weather conditions. However, the study said the risk of long-term health effects from VOC-specific emissions is low and the chance of cancer falls within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current acceptable risk range.

The study will be used in the current rulemaking round for Senate Bill 181, and will be used for additional rulemaking in 2020 to reduce oil and gas emissions.

During the conference, State Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) issued a statement calling on the COGCC to indefinitely delay permits within 2,000 feet of a home until all rulemaking for SB 181 is done. Robbins said he was unaware of Fenberg’s proposal.

Robbins also said agencies will start more real-time monitoring of active drilling sites within the next several months.

DENVER  — The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is expanding the range of oil-well permits subject to additional scrutiny after it and state health officials released a study on the health impacts from emissions.

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, COGCC director Jeff Robbins said the agency will immediately begin applying the stricter rules for any drilling operator that wants to build a well within 2,000 feet of a home. The current range for additional scrutiny is 1,500 feet from an occupied home.

The new regulations will apply to 39 permits awaiting approval, including 27 in Weld County, two in both Larimer and Boulder counties, and one in Adams County.

However, the new rules do not apply to wells currently operating within range of a home.

“There are certain wells in the pre-production phase now… those wells have a vested right to continue because they received approval from the state to operate,” Robbins said.

Thursday’s new rules come with the release of a modelling study from the COGCC and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to measure volatile organic compound emissions from wells in Northern Colorado and Garfield County in the far west section of the state using emissions samples and weather data from 2016.

It determined that there are short-term health risks such as headaches, nausea and nosebleeds for people breathing air near an active well, especially if the well is in a backflow or there are adverse weather conditions. However, the study said the risk of long-term health effects…