Colorado struggles to tighten gas line regulations

PEL805 Colorado struggles to tighten gas line regulations

Have a care for anyone digging up the ground in Colorado. According to the local paper, the Denver Post, seven years into a surge in oil and gas production, there are hundreds of kilometres of underground lines carrying volatile, and flammable, hydrocarbons near people, and more than 120,000 “segments” are known to be buried within 300 metres of buildings, but it’s not known exactly where.

“State officials have conceded they don’t know the locations or even the total miles,” Denver Post reports. “They lack data on underground lines beyond well pads called ‘gathering lines’ that carry fossil fuels toward larger interstate pipelines.”

In light of these issues, and following a fatal explosion at a house in Firestone in April 2017 caused by a leaking gas line, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is trying to tighten regulations governing the oil and gas industries’ pipeline activities, but is finding this difficult. It held a two-day public rulemaking hearing on 8 and 9 January and has been forced to continue this, the next session is scheduled for 13 February.

Denver Post said the COGCC had proposed requiring companies cut off abandoned lines, test active lines to detect leaks, participate in Colorado 811 for locating lines at specific excavation sites and report more fully on fires and explosions that, it said, were a monthly occurrence.

However, Colorado’s residents are demanding much stricter protection for people and the environment, but the COGCC is having trouble getting even its proposed regulations in place.

The industry is complaining that the proposed reporting requirements are too onerous. Denver Post quoted the attorney for DCP Midstream, which operates 6,000kms of gathering lines, telling the hearing that submission of data on this infrastructure would impose burdensome reporting requirements.

Other industry representatives called for the proposed 30-day notice of plans to install new pipelines to be reduced to two days.

Another industry representative argued that providing local governments with details of pipelines could expose them to attacks by terrorists!

Not surprisingly the issue is a big concern to Colorado residents and they have not been shy in voicing these at a public hearing. The Colorado Independent reported that the hearing after the fatal explosion in Firestone last April was so packed that many members of the public had to wait outside the hearing room.

However, for the public, getting their concerns heard is about to become more difficult. In a notice posted on its website on 22 January, COGCC said there had been “a significant increase in the volume of public comment” at its hearings.

So it is will now restrict the public comment period at these hearings to two hours at the start of each meeting and require anyone wishing to speak to sign up online ahead of time and provide a short written summary of their comments.

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