Colorado panel approves new groundwater rules for drilling

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has approved new groundwater protection rules for oil and natural gas drilling in the state.

The new rules require operators sample nearby water wells both before and after drilling activities as a way to provide assurance water supplies aren’t affected by energy development and identify potential problems in the instances in which effects occur. The rules require sampling up to four water wells within a half mile of new oil and gas wells prior to drilling and two more samples of each well between six and 12 months and again between five and six years.

Only two other states impose mandatory groundwater programs. No other state in the country requires operators to take post-drilling water 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. “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.”

Approval of the rule follows months of stakeholder discussions designed to craft a rule that protects well owners and the industry. These rules will generate the necessary data to help regulators determine whether oil and gas activities affect drinking water or other factors could affect groundwater. The new rules also follow a year-long voluntary sampling program.