State to tighten oil, gas regs after spills from 2013 flood |

State to tighten oil, gas regs after spills from 2013 flood

DENVER — State regulators are preparing to impose new rules to keep oil and gas wells more secure after spills blamed on the catastrophic Colorado flood of 2013.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission released proposed rules Thursday, including a requirement that all new wells located within a 100-year flood plain be equipped with technology allowing them to be shut down remotely.

A public meeting on the regulations is set for Tuesday, and the commission is expected to vote on them March 2.

Other proposals would require anchoring storage tanks with cables so they’re less likely to tip and spill; erecting berms of steel or similar materials around oilfield facilities to protect them from flooding; and drawing up emergency response plans for any operations inside a 100-year flood plain.

A 100-year flood is a deluge so severe that there is only a 1-in-100 chance of it occurring in any given year.

Industry and conservation groups say they support most of the rule changes.

The commission has said more than 48,000 gallons of oil and 43,000 gallons of polluted water spilled from overturned or damaged tanks because of the September 2013 flood.

More than 2,650 wells were shut down. No significant leaks came directly from wells, commission officials said.

Nine people were killed in the flood, and a 10th died in the recovery effort. State officials put the total damage at $3 billion.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry group, initially said it did not believe any new regulations were necessary. In written comments on a draft version of the new rules, however, the group said it generally supported them, with some minor wording changes.

The conservation group Trout Unlimited said it, too, supported most of the proposals, but wants a requirement that new oil and gas facilities be kept out of flood plains whenever possible. That wording is not in the current version of the proposals.

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