White Jankowski Lawyers

COGCC releases new groundwater testing rules

March 1, 2013

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission recently released new rules that attempt to respond to public demand for safer hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations associated with oil and gas development in Colorado.  The final rules have been under attack from all sides, with environmental and municipal interests concerned that there is not enough protection, while industry laments new requirements as burdensome.

Under the new rules, initial baseline samples and subsequent monitoring samples are to be collected from a maximum of four sites within a one-half mile radius of a proposed oil and gas well.  The new rules require sampling from all “Available Water Sources,” but there are several exceptions.  For example, if more than four “Available Water Sources” are within a half-mile radius of the oil and gas well, the operator has the discretion to choose where to take samples.  The decision is based on a range of factors: proximity to the oil and gas well, types of water sources, orientation of the sampling location relative to flow, and “preferred” aquifer depth.  As a result, some aquifers may not be sampled even though they are penetrated by an oil and gas well.  The rules require testing for a list of contaminants at each well.  However, the list of contaminants for which water samples will be tested excludes a number of chemicals regularly used in fracking fluid.       

Some Colorado groundwater users are concerned that the monitoring will not be thorough enough to catch contamination before their water supply is polluted.  At the same time, industrial representatives contend that fracking presents a low risk to drinking water aquifers and any monitoring is excessive because of the way oil and gas wells are constructed to prevent this type of contamination.  In spite of the controversy regarding the rules, Colorado is ahead of many other states in requiring this level of monitoring for fracking regulations.  Read COGCC’s new rules here.