By Sara Loflin, LOGIC
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) just finalized the nation’s strongest rules to protect people and communities living near industrial oil and gas drilling. The rules follow best scientific research and are the result of input and testimony from hundreds of Coloradans personally impacted by oil and gas development.
These new rules will also better support the economic viability of rural communities in our state by giving local leaders and business owners needed certainty. The rules represent a milestone for our nation and a model for other states.
The COGCC heard from impacted people from across the state. They heard from parents whose children were exposed to fumes from oil and gas drilling close to their schools, retirees whose dream homes were overrun with air contaminants that they believe caused headaches, nosebleeds and breathing problems, and elected officials seeking a voice in the decisions that greatly affect their ability to invest in the future of their communities.
Requiring accountability from oil and gas companies means keeping Coloradan safe. The new rules help protect the largest asset and investment many Americans will ever have — their homes. The new COGCC rules, coupled with those yet to come, will protect residents and their property values.
Rules and regulations in Colorado, prior to this year, were required to foster the industry at the expense of communities, outdoor jobs, wildlife, safety, and public health. Legislation passed in 2019 changed the COGCC mission and its members. The new professional Commission is now directed to protect health, safety, wildlife and our air and water.
During the COGCC hearings, dozens of residents living near drilling operations testified about the headaches, respiratory illness and other health issues they experienced. Many also noted the “round-the-clock” noise, vibration, bright lights, and heavy industrial truck traffic on residential streets. With the new rules, particularly the setback of 2000 feet between drilling operations and homes and schools, families can literally breathe easier.
Now more than ever we are mindful of the health and safety of our residents and our communities. A healthy recovery from this pandemic must consider broader impacts to our health and safety.
As an Erie trustee, I know that any plan for a post-pandemic economic recovery must protect existing jobs, wages and economic diversity. The new COGCC rules will allow local leaders to plan ahead with the confidence that we have an effective voice in deciding how oil and gas development impacts our communities and quality of life.
Gov. Jared Polis, legislators and, especially, COGCC members and staff deserve our thanks and praise for a job well done. In Colorado, they have shown that we can strike a balance between the needs of the oil and gas industry and public health, neighborhood safety and wildlife, and move forward toward a more diverse economy.
Colorado leaders have formally acknowledged that a healthy and diverse economy requires robust communities and an enviable and attractive way of life. We understand that the economy is driven by the people who live here. It is driven by a robust, outdoor way of life, and it is driven by our history, our experiences and our sense of community.
Once again, Colorado is the first in the nation and the rules governing oil and gas development in our state will be an example for the rest of the country. Sara Loflin is a member of the Erie Board of Trustees and executive director of the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans.