COGCC memo identifies the “Objective Criteria” that will trigger further review, could delay final determination of specific permit applications to ensure they comply with SB 19-181’s intent in advance of new rulemaking

10-day written comment period ends April 29

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission issued a document on Friday entitled “SB 19-181 Draft Required Director Objective Criteria.”

This memo is an early communication from the COGCC that adds a little more detail for some of the more ambiguous areas of Colorado’s new energy overhaul law—SB 19-181. It also shows where other ambiguities reside in the new law.

The memo refers to language in the newly signed law that says that the director may “delay the final determination regarding a permit application” if the director determines, “pursuant to objective criteria … that the permit requires additional analysis to ensure the protection of public health, safety, welfare or the environment or requires additional local government or state agency consultation.”

It’s not saying these criteria will lead to the automatic denial of a drilling permit. Rather, if an application for a permit to drill, or engage in another oil and gas operation shown below, at a certain location, triggers one of the 15 Objective Criteria, then that application will go into a pile of applications requiring additional review to ensure compliance witth the SB 19-181.

The memo allows the COGCC director to delay final determination in order to provide additional analysis as to public health, safety, welfare or the environment, or additional consultation by local government or state agencies prior to a permit for the activity being issued or denied.

Types of applications to which the “Objective Criteria” apply

The Objective Criteria apply to:

  • applications for Permit to Drill (Form 2),
  • an Oil and Gas Location Assessment Permit (Form 2A),
  • a Request to Vent or Flare Permit (Form 4),
  • an Intent to Plug Permit (Form 6),
  • a Centralized E&P Waste Management Facility Permit (Form 28), and
  • applications for Comprehensive Drilling Plans.

The April 19 COGCC memo itemizes 15 “Objective Criteria,” saying, “if a permit [application] meets one or more Objective Criteria, it will be subject to additional review pursuant to SB 19-181.”

Here are the 15 Objective Criteria from the COGCC memo:

List of the Draft Objective Criteria

1)            Locations within 1500’1 of a Building Unit2 or High Occupancy Building, which include Urban Mitigation                  Area (“UMA”) and Large UMA Facility (“LUMAF”) locations.

2)            Locations within a municipality.

3)            Locations within 1500’1 of a municipal boundary, platted subdivision, or county boundary.

4)            Locations within 2,000’1 of a school property line.

5)            Locations within:

a) a Floodplain;

b) an identified public drinking water supply area (i.e. Rule 317B buffer zone, or the Brighton Public                          Water System); or

c) a sensitive area for water

6)       Locations within a Colorado Parks and Wildlife (“CPW”) mapped Restricted Surface Occupancy Area (“RSO”)              or Sensitive Wildlife Habitat (“SWH”), or locations receiving site- or species-specific CPW comments.

7)         Locations within 1,000’1 of a Designated Outdoor Activity Area.

8)         Locations with more than 18 tanks or 5,200 barrels of hydrocarbon or produced liquid storage.

9)         Locations where the operator does not have a Surface Use Agreement.

10)       Locations where the relevant local government, or state or federal agency requests additional consultation.

11)       Locations where the operator requests the Director grant a Rule 502.b Variance for an associated permit                  application.

12)       Locations with an access road in a RSO, SWH, 317B buffer zone, or within 200’ feet of a Building Unit on                 lands not subject to a Surface Use Agreement.

13)       A proposed centralized E&P Waste Management Facility.

14)       A Request to Vent or Flare (Form 4) from a location within 1,500’1 of a Building Unit or High Occupancy                    Building Unit or within the Denver Metro/North Front Range ozone nonattainment area.

15)       An Intent to Plug (Form 6) for:

a) a location within 1,500’1 of a Building Unit or High Occupancy Building Unit;

b) a well drilled with surface casing set at a depth insufficient to cover all aquifers; or

c) a well subject to a stray gas investigation.

FOOTNOTES 1 and 2:

1 This distance is measured from the edge of the disturbed Oil and Gas Location, and not the buffer or exception       zone. Measuring from the edge of the disturbed Oil and Gas Location is more protective of public health, safety,     welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources since it is a greater distance than the buffer or exception zone.

2 Definitions of capitalized terms used in this document can be found in the Commission’s 100 Series Definitions,

Public comment period – submit written comments now or suggest additional criteria through close of business April 29, 2019

The issuance of the Draft Objective Criteria commences a 10-day public comment period on the criteria.

COGCC said it will take written public comments regarding these criteria or additional suggested criteria until 5:00 p.m. (MTN) April 29th. Per SB 19-181, COGCC must finalize and publish the Objective Criteria by May 16th.

Written comments may be submitted through the COGCC website at this comments link.

In an email, COGCC said the director will also be conducting additional and ongoing outreach on the Objective Criteria with other stakeholders and interested parties during the comment period and beyond.

COGCC director must be satisfied that a permit complies with the intent of SB 19-181

The memo says, “The legislation does not require the Director to delay all final permit determinations until these rules are promulgated. Rather, the bill allows the Director to delay specific final permit determinations until the Director is satisfied that the permit complies with the intent of SB 19-181.”

According to the memo, the authority remains in place until the COGCC completes rulemaking implementing or amending the following statutory provisions:

  1. Protection and minimization of adverse impacts to public health, safety and welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources and the environment resulting from oil and gas operations;
  2. Alternative location analysis process for oil and gas locations or facilities;
  3. Cumulative impacts of oil and gas development; and
  4. Flowline and inactive, temporarily abandoned, and shut-in.


Download a PDF file of the COGCC memo here.

Download the final version of SB 19-181 as signed into law here.

Link to COGCC Operator Guidance bulletin from COGCC Director Jeff Robbins.

In a separate email on Monday, the COGCC said it would postpone the April hearing until May 20-21 to allow the governor and his team time to conduct an evaluation of SB 181.

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