The state of Colorado is poised to undertake a few of the nation’s most refined and protecting laws designed to forestall its 60,000 oil and gasoline wells from leaking or exploding.

Colorado has a historical past of main on oil and gasoline regulatory points to cut back dangers to households, workers and the setting, together with the nation’s first laws to deal with climate-damaging methane emissions from the business in 2014. In the wake of the 2017 Firestone tragedy and the passage of a main oil and gasoline reform invoice (SB 181) in 2019, the state has undertaken a complete slate of rule modernizations. Well integrity, for which rules haven’t been up to date since 2008, is up subsequent.

Ensuring that wells don’t leak or explode is a prime precedence for any oil and gasoline company. For the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission updating well integrity rules is not going to solely scale back dangers for oil and gasoline workers in the state, however can even assist defend the 500,000 Coloradans who reside inside a mile of an oil or gasoline well in the state. Since 2016, COGCC information present round 40 well integrity incidents, together with important blowouts in Hudson and Berthoud in 2017. And that determine is probably going an underreporting given how troublesome it may be to find out whether or not a leak is happening deep underground.

New well integrity rules make Colorado a leader in well safety for workers and neighbors Click To Tweet

Leaks from oil and gasoline wells can contaminate aquifers or launch methane into the environment. In probably the most severe instances, methane can migrate into properties and pose explosion dangers. Oil and gasoline well blowouts are dramatic fluid releases that may endanger workers, residents and the setting. They happen most frequently throughout drilling, however are potential throughout any part of a well’s multidecade lifespan. Major blowouts in latest years have rocked Ohio, Oklahoma, the Gulf of Mexico and California’s Aliso Canyon.

Importantly, historical past reveals us that smarter and higher rules actually work. A 12 months after Texas adopted new well integrity laws, together with many comparable coverage suggestions from EDF, blowouts in Texas fell by 40% and accidents from blowouts fell 50%.

Over the final 12 months, a stakeholder coalition that included EDF and operators representing greater than 90% of the manufacturing in Colorado has been working to develop a joint set of proposed rule revisions, based mostly on a peer review by the State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange, that defend workers, the setting and residents, and take into consideration the wants of the state’s energy companies.

The COGCC’s proposed rule, which shall be voted on in late February, displays the entire coalition’s suggestions, and EDF strongly helps its passage (Colorado environmental teams are additionally broadly supportive of the rulemaking, and EDF helps the tweaks they search to the definition of protected water). It addresses basically the entire potential regulatory gaps flagged by the peer evaluate, reduces particular dangers associated to Colorado’s oil and gasoline wells recognized in the technical literature, and adheres carefully to EDF’s Model Regulatory Framework on well integrity. In different phrases, it might convey Colorado to the pinnacle of the category on well integrity regulation nationwide.

Some highlights embrace:

  • Regular monitoring of each well in the state for leakage dangers.
  • Improved standards for cement placement, high quality and testing.
  • New safety controls throughout hydraulic fracturing.
  • More complete efforts to forestall frac hits.
  • Better plugging protocols.
  • New emergency response planning necessities.

Overall, there are dozens of recent enhancements, and a lot of them clearly display nationwide management. EDF is happy that Colorado is on the brink of undertake such a sturdy rule developed in a collaborative, science and risk-based method. Other states could discover a lot to duplicate in each course of and substance, and this rulemaking establishes sturdy momentum in Colorado’s stead for the following rounds of rule upgrades required beneath SB 181.

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