COGCC officials to be briefed on oil and gas health study ahead of setbacks decision

By: - September 3, 2020 11:29 am

A pump jack is seen in Frederick on June 24, 2020. (Andy Bosselman for Colorado Newsline)

Colorado oil and gas commissioners will be briefed by state officials on the potential health risks of drilling ahead of a critical rulemaking decision, after all.

Kristy Richardson, Colorado’s state toxicologist, is scheduled to deliver a presentation on a landmark public-health study to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Thursday afternoon, as commissioners prepare to move on to a key phase of a regulatory overhaul in which they could decide to lengthen mandatory “setback” distances between new wells and occupied buildings.

While the briefing is not expected to contain significant new information, it will offer the COGCC’s new five-member rulemaking panel the chance to learn and ask questions about the state’s 2019 study on the health risks of oil and gas development. The commission had previously canceled the briefing at the request of pro-industry groups, who alleged that the presentation would “prejudice” the commission in favor of setbacks as the rulemaking process began.

Released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in October 2019, the “Human Health Risk Assessment for Oil & Gas Operations in Colorado” concluded that under certain conditions, oil and gas facilities can lead to negative health effects at distances up to 2,000 feet — double the current statewide setback requirement of 1,000 feet from high-occupancy buildings, and quadruple the current 500-foot setback from single-family homes.

The health study briefing is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m., after which the commission will begin presentations and deliberations on its “600 Series” rules, which include setbacks. Virtual meeting details and other information can be found on the COGCC’s website.

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.