The first week into January, Colorado became the first state to require energy companies to do groundwater sampling both before and after they drill for oil and/or natural gas.
Colorado oil and natural gas regulators made the decision to approve the measure. The sampling is meant to show whether supplies of drinking water have been affected by energy development, and unless the methods to extract oil and natural gas undergo a drastic change, it can be assumed the post-drill testing will show the true impact of oil and gas extraction.
Further, the new sampling regulations don’t appear to have pleased anyone, with both industry and environmental interests immediately finding faults with the new regulations.
The Environmental Defense Fund said the sampling rules represent the weakest program in the nation for testing groundwater around oil and gas operations, while the Colorado Oil & Gas Association is worried the rules could hinder energy development with excessive requirements. Both of those perspectives sound eerily familiar to every other regulation placed on the oil and gas industry, and these new regulations have just about the same chance as others to be successful.
The new regulations require sampling of up to four water wells within a half mile of a new oil and gas well before drilling, between six and 12 months after drilling, and between five and six years after drilling.
As a result of the language of the regulations, environmental groups also contend the new rules fail to set standards for how groundwater samples are collected and tested, and will allow drilling operators to strategically select or “cherry pick” which water sources to sample.
Obviously, everyone isn’t going to be pleased all the time, and it is a losing battle to try to please everyone. These regulations represent a middle-of-the-road policy that will allow for appropriate testing of groundwater around oil and gas wells.
It’s nothing great, but likely a step in the right direction.
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