Feds question if oil, gas rules apply to them
DENVER ” Colorado officials revamping the state’s oil and gas rules are taking heat from an unexpected source: the federal government.
The Bureau of Land Management, overseeing an explosion of gas drilling on federal land in Colorado, is challenging the notion that new state regulations would extend to federal land without BLM’s agreement.
The BLM’s complaints follow vocal opposition from the industry to new rules being considered by regulators.
In a June 6 letter to the state, Colorado BLM director Sally Wisely said her agency believes “that certain draft rules would be pre-empted by federal law if applied to oil and gas operations on federal lands.” She cited court cases and the U.S. Constitution.
Wisely suggested in an earlier letter that the state and BLM should hash out their differences to avoid litigation.
She urged the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the main regulatory body, to consider updating a long-standing agreement between Colorado and the BLM on oil and gas development to resolve any conflicts.
“We have had a good relationship with the COGCC in terms of how we worked on these issues,” BLM spokesman Steven Hall said.
“I think all of those concerns can be addressed through the (memorandum of understanding).”
Dave Neslin, acting director of the oil and gas commission, said he plans to meet with federal officials soon.
He said there have been discussions and his staff recently modified the proposals in response to concerns about drilling on Indian lands.
“We believe the issues can be resolved in a manner that works for both sides,” Neslin said.
State officials, though, have insisted that the rules would apply to federal land because of the state’s jurisdiction over water and wildlife.
The oil and gas commission is expected to vote in August on rules implementing laws requiring that the environment, wildlife and public health and safety be given more consideration when approving development.
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