Despite sweeping changes to the State’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission accountability remains the same

Despite increased regulations put in place by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, permits for fracking have only continued to increase in the state, while literally none have been rejected.

Frank Smith of the Western Colorado Congress, a non-partisan advocacy group for private landowners in Western Colorado, spoke with the Checks and Balances Project in December about the new permitting process for gas production in the state.


“Just this last year alone Garfield County and the state approved over 1,500 hundred permits. Each one of those permits is for a future well that will be fracked once, twice, five, ten or twenty times. It all depends on the play and the geology underneath. But that is, at least, a few thousand fracks,” said smith.

Smith went on to say that Colorado was on pace to have 2010 be a top three year for permits issued for fracking. Smith also claims that government officials in Colorado have pressured local regulators to speed up the permitting process. This concerns folks like Smith because of the substances used in fracking, which is the process of injecting toxic chemicals into the ground to access natural gas.  “Right now the oil and gas industry waits about one day for a permit to be approved and thus far zero permits have been denied… so 5,000 permits have been approved in 2010 and zero have been denied.”

In 2007 the Colorado legislature passed sweeping changes to the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in hopes of bringing more accountability to the oil and gas permitting process. The changes included expanding the board from seven to nine voting members and reducing the number of industry representatives on the board to three from five.  Other members of the board now must include the states’ executive directors of the departments of Natural Resources and Public Health and Environment. A local official must be on the COGCC, along with an environmental official, a trained soil conservation or reclaim expert and either an agricultural representative or a royalty owner. Other rules were changed during the 2007 overhaul including requirements for supermajority approval in the permitting process.

When these changes were being considered the head of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Meg Collins, said the changes would have a detrimental affect on the natural gas business in the state. “[Colorado] is sending a clear message to natural gas and oil companies that Colorado is closing its doors on them,” Collins said in a Glenwood Post Independent story. Clearly her doomsday prediction has not come to fruition when you consider that not one permit has been rejected two years after these new “door closing’” policies were put in place.