DENVER (AP) — Colorado oil and natural gas regulators on Monday approved rules making the state the first to require energy companies to do groundwater sampling both before and after they drill.
The sampling is meant to show whether supplies of drinking water have been affected by energy development.
Industry and environmental interests both immediately found fault with the new sampling regulations, which the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved Monday as it began a three-day hearing on rule changes. Next, the commission will consider updating how far drilling must be from buildings.
The Environmental Defense Fund said the sampling rules approved Monday represented the weakest program in the nation for testing groundwater around oil and gas operations. Meanwhile, the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, a trade group, worried the rules could hamper energy development with excessive requirements.
Colorado is requiring sampling of up to four water wells within a half mile of a new oil and gas well before drilling, between six and 12 months after drilling, and between five and six years after drilling.
An exception is in the energy-rich Greater Wattenberg Area, one of the state's top areas for drilling with thousands of active wells. Operators there would only have to sample one water well per quarter governmental section, before and after drilling. That angered environmental groups who said the limited sampling would slash the odds of detecting contamination. Energy companies countered that wells are so close together there that it doesn't make sense to require more sampling.
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