The bill gives cities and counties more control over the siting of wells while amending the state’s current preemption law that provides protection from local ordinances that conflict with existing state law. The bill also requires the installation of continuous emission monitoring equipment for methane, nitrogen oxides and other gasses, and it repeals an exemption for oil and gas production from a county’s authority to regulate noise. The makeup of the commission was also changed, reducing the number of oil and gas industry members from three to one.
COGCC approved the use of administrative law judges and hearing officers to free up the commission’s time to focus on development of the new regulations. Many expect implementation of SB 181 to take more than a year. The process will include public hearings throughout the state as feedback is requested from residents in energy-producing areas, as well as industry. New rules will be written covering the effects of energy production on public health, proper well structure, processes for abandoning wells, requirements for reducing emissions from oil and gas wells and the issuance of bonds to ensure remediation is completed on production sites.
There is pressure for state officials to cease issuing any new drilling permits until work on the bill is completed, but the commission stated that a moratorium on oil and gas permits was not part of the implementation plan. Industry supporters continue to push back on the new law, arguing that Coloradoans already voiced their opinion on the need for additional regulations when they overwhelmingly rejected a 2018 ballot initiative that would have added more layers of regulation on the oil and gas industry. Nearly 350 drilling permits have been approved since SB 181 became law.
PESA is monitoring SB 181 and will continue to report on the bill’s implementation and its effect on Association members.