Result of 2019 COGCC Flowline Rulemaking
SB181 is a paradigm shift how Colorado regulates oil and gas. It is clear from this Flowline rulemaking that the COGCC has shifted and that the protection of public health, safety, welfare, the environment and wildlife is paramount.
What we asked for:
- Broad, statewide application of these rules without exemptions.
- Precautionary principle: Requirement that operators remove flowlines once they’re no longer in use.
- Transparency and Disclosure
- Comprehensive Mapping.
- Requirement that operators disclose the location of all flowlines and related pipelines.
- Creation and disclosure of an interactive map of flowlines to the public that give Coloradans a meaningful picture of flowlines so they can make informed decisions.
- Increased testing and monitoring requirements
- Rules that acknowledge SB19-181’s removal of the “technically feasible” and “cost-effective” considerations from the COGCC’s mandate.
What we got:
Statewide application of the rule.
The Commission resisted calls by Garfield County and the Western & Rural Local Government Coalition to exempt produced water lines on the Western Slope. The volume of federal lands on the Western Slope has been reason for some parties to call for differing standards
Precautionary Principle: Removal of Flowlines no longer in use
- The COGCC has created a presumption that all flowlines will be removed when no longer in use.
- A series of exceptions were put in place with the intent of insuring that removal of the flowline would not be more harmful to public health, safety, and welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources, than leaving it in the ground, but the final rule eliminated those exceptions that would defeat the purpose of the rule. Any operator planning to abandon in place will have to file a form to that effect and the Director may review it to determine if removal is more protective of public health, safety, and welfare, the environment, and wildlife.
- The blanket exception for abandonment in place if revegetation was in process was removed entirely, and replaced with abandonment in place if removal would cause significant impact to topsoil, vegetation, and wildlife resources.
Transparency and Disclosure
Operators will provide as accurate of location data as possible with a maximum variability of +/-25’. The Director will be providing guidance to operators to determine what “as accurate as possible” means, and likely requiring more accurate data for a large portion of flowlines. This includes lines with tracers, and metallic lines that are more easily locatable. This mapping is to be completed by December 2020. This means that we will likely get close on having +/- 3 feet of accuracy on metallic lines and those placed post-1996.
The resolution of the map made publicly available will be 1:6000. Members of the public can come to the COGCC and see more specific data there. This more specific information will also be made available through local government offices, so that members of the public don’t have to drive all the way to Denver or Rifle. Local governments will also have access to the same information as the COGCC to incorporate into the planning and emergency management processes.
Testing and inspections
- Thanks to Erin Martinez, the requested 3rdparty inspections were put in place.
- All of the additional requests were postponed until the mission change rulemaking, when they will be considered alongside a wider review of testing and inspection requirements across all aspects of oil and gas operations.
The Commission reminded the industry that SB181 removed “technically feasible” and “cost-effective” considerations from their regulatory process.
Citizens often walked away from past COGCC rulemakings disappointed. For the first time, impacted Coloradans and communities are walking away from this rulemaking having been heard and with new rules that will yield real, timely results for making Colorado safer.