Colorado commissioners have decided to allow for higher fines for oil and gas industry violations
After much debating, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) has decided to approve heavier penalties for oil and gas well operators who violate state regulation. The new penalties include fines of up to $15,000 per day, up from a nearly 60-year old measure that called for fines of $1,000 per day and a $10,000 maximum cap, echoing a decision made last year by the Colorado legislature.
The decision from the Colorado legislature followed an executive order by Gov. John Hickenlooper calling for changes in the fine structure. COGCC commissioner John Benton said, “If the legislature said $15,000, it may not be appropriate to reduce that number.”
“This marks a considerable change in the way we do business,” said Matt Lepore, director of COGCC. “Toughening major penalties for violators is an important component of our ongoing efforts to strengthen our oversight, enforcement and compliance program.”
Doug Flanders, a member of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, was supportive of the new rules, reports the Denver Business Journal. “Overall, we’re on the same page with the COGCC and have the same goal, which is to ensure consistency, clarity and certainty as to how the new rules will be enforced, who penalties will be calculated, and how both will be applied to stakeholders.”
The COGCC commissioners also decided to lower the maximum daily fines for the least serious violations, such as paperwork filed late, to $200 from $500, reports the Denver Post. The commissioners also decided to limit the COGCC director’s discretion to waive all penalties in serious cases and tightened language protecting the right to protest a director’s ruling on a complaint.
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