Colorado maintains crucial regulations controlling runoff from construction activities on oil and gas sites

Environment Colorado

DENVER—On May 14, 2007, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission declined to change the regulation requiring stormwater controls on oil and gas sites in Colorado, thereby ensuring continued protection of Colorado’s rivers and streams from pollution from the burgeoning energy exploration industry.

The regulation was passed in January 2006, after a coalition of local governments, water conservancy districts, soil conservation districts, General Assembly members, and environmental groups asked the Commission to continue to regulate storm water discharges from oil and gas construction sites in Colorado in spite of an exemption given to the industry by the Bush administration in 2005. After hearing compelling evidence presented by the coalition, the Commission voted 9-0 in favor of retention of the Colorado program.

s part of its decision, the Commission asked the Water Quality Control Division to explore options for waivers for any activities that presented a low risk of adverse water quality impacts and examine opportunities for coordination between the regulation and regulations of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and come back and make recommendations to the Commission in May 2007.

he oil and gas industry used this opportunity to request substantial waivers and exemptions from the regulation, which, if granted, would have gutted the regulation. The coalition, including Environment Colorado, reformed and fought the industry’s efforts, submitting technical information to the Division showing that the requests were based on neither sound science nor sound policy and building support statewide for keeping the regulation unchanged.

Based on the evidence provided to it by the coalition, the Division recommended to the Commission that, in order to protect Colorado’s waters, the regulation should not be changed.  Soon after the Division’s recommendation was submitted to the Commission, the oil and gas industry withdrew all of its requests.  

On May 14, 2007, the Commission followed this recommendation and upheld its 2006 rule, ensuring that protection of Colorado’s waters would remain in effect as is, at least until the next regular hearing in 2012.  Clean Water Advocate Stephanie Thomas called this a huge victory for Colorado’s water, in the face of the state’s exploding energy development industry.  “Our members can rest easier knowing these protections will stay in place to protect our waters as the rush to develop our oil and gas resources continues over the next five years,” she said.