Get answers to some frequently asked questions about fracking in Colorado!
- Is oil and natural gas development regulated? Who regulates the process?
- Why do we need fracking?
- Does fracking contaminate water?
- Does fracking pollute the air?
- How important is oil and natural gas to Colorado’s economy?
- Is there a required distance between oil and natural gas development and Colorado homes or schools?
- What are setbacks?
- How far is the distance for setbacks?
- Are setbacks effective?
Q: Is oil and natural gas development regulated? Who regulates the process?
A: Federal, state and local governments all have a part in regulating the development of oil and natural gas.
Fracking and oil and natural gas development and production are not exempt from major federal environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA) or the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In 2012, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) clarified in a report to Congress the key environmental and public health regulations that govern fracking and other steps in the development of oil and natural gas.
By state law, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) regulates the development and production of all oil and natural gas resources in the state of Colorado. From mandatory groundwater monitoring programs to well-inspections and strict well-structure rules, the COGCC ensures oil and natural gas development remains safe throughout the entire process. In fact, any Coloradan can see each of the statewide regulations on the COGCC website.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also administers a comprehensive program to monitor air quality and emissions.
The reviewal and approval of permits, drilling locations, well integrity standards, waste water management and disposal and air emission oversight are also regulated at the state level.
In 2019, Colorado expanded our state’s already strong regulations to further support local authority and control. This ensures that Colorado’s energy industry continues to operate in the most responsible way possible. Before drilling takes place, oil and natural gas companies are required to work with local governments and nearby residents to ensure community concerns are acknowledged and addressed up front whenever possible.
More than 30 counties in Colorado have also updated local rules to meet their community’s specific needs:
- Many local governments have negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which is a legally binding agreement between companies and local governments setting out rules before development even begins. As an incentive for meeting these special requirements, companies receive their permits through a more streamlined process.
- Cities and counties can appoint a Local Government Designee (LGD) to represent their community interests before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state agency charged with regulating oil and natural gas development in Colorado.
Q: Why do we need fracking?
A: Fracking touches almost every aspect of our lives in Colorado and across the country. From keeping our homes and businesses warm on chilly days, to keeping the lights on and powering our stoves and water heaters, fracking is leading the way to a reliable and more affordable energy future. And thanks to technological innovations, states like Colorado are proving again and again that fracking is charting the future of American energy.
In 2015, the Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry contributed more than $31 billion to our economy and supported over 232,900 jobs. According to the Denver Business Journal, those oil and natural gas jobs “accounted for nearly 7 percent of the total state employment.”
When Colorado sells natural gas, schools, state universities, state parks and public buildings all benefit. The money Colorado makes from collecting and selling natural gas goes directly back into the communities who deserve it the most. In addition to supporting and creating Colorado jobs, the oil and natural gas industry generates more than $1 billion annually in revenues to state and local governments, school districts and special districts—funding schools, parks and roads across the state.
Learn more about about how fracking benefits Colorado.
Q: Does fracking contaminate water?
A: When it comes to fracking and oil and natural gas development, Colorado’s water regulations are a national model. In fact, scientists and researchers from over two-dozen governmental organizations, universities, and nonprofits confirm that fracking does not contaminate groundwater.
Colorado also has a mandatory groundwater monitoring program and was the first state to require water sampling before and after the fracking process. To top it off, we have some of the strictest oil and natural gas spill reporting requirements in the country.
Q: Does fracking pollute the air?
A: In 2014, Colorado approved the first methane regulations in the nation requiring energy companies to reduce methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations. The regulations are “more protective” than what the EPA announced according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
According to the Denver Business Journal, “field surveys by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) of oil and gas equipment found a 75 percent drop in the number of sites where methane leaks were detected compared to similar surveys prior to the regulations.” Asked how well the regulations were working, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said “Colorado’s rules are working extremely well.”
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment – Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) has the primary authority and jurisdiction to ensure that Colorado’s oil and natural gas operations comply with federal and state air quality laws and regulations. APCD administers rules that have been developed and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (CAQCC).
Learn more about about Colorado’s regulations.
Q: How important is oil and natural gas to Colorado’s economy?
A: In 2015, Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry contributed more than $31 billion to our economy and supported over 232,900 jobs. According to the Denver Business Journal, those oil and natural gas jobs “accounted for nearly 7 percent of the total state employment.” Additionally, Weld County—home to 85% of Colorado’s oil production—had the largest percentage increase in employment in the U.S. in 2013 (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business).
Q: Is there a required distance between oil and natural gas development and Colorado homes or schools?
A: The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) regulates “setbacks” from homes, schools and other high occupancy buildings. Colorado was the first state in the Rockies to push its setback distance to 500 feet from a residence and 1,000 feet from high occupancy buildings, such as hospitals and schools. In January 2013, the COGCC adopted these new setback rules and included additional rules requiring:
- Closed loop drilling systems that eliminate storage pits
- Liner standards to protect against spills
- Capture of gases to reduce odors and emissions
- Strict controls on the nuisance impacts of noise and dust
Q: What are setbacks?
A: “Setback” is a common term here in Colorado, but not many people know what setbacks are or why they are so important to understanding fracking and the laws governing responsible oil and natural gas development. Here are the facts. Setbacks are the required distance set by law between oil and natural gas development and homes, schools, and other buildings and are a big part of why Colorado already has some of the toughest energy regulations in the nation.
Q: How far is the distance for setbacks?
A: Currently, Colorado law defines oil and natural gas setback distances at 500 feet statewide and 1,000 feet from high occupancy buildings. The setbacks are enforced by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), that is charged with regulating Colorado’s oil and natural gas development (Source: COGCC setbacks rulemaking (2013)). The current setback rules keep the environment and communities surrounding oil and natural gas development sites safe, while allowing Coloradans to tap into our state’s natural resources and promoting a strong economy.
Q: Are setbacks effective?
A: For almost a decade, Colorado elected officials, environmental groups, community leaders, and the hardworking people who make up our energy industry have come to the table to have real discussions with real actions to not only make our state’s oil and natural gas regulations some of the strongest in the nation, but also work for our citizens. That’s how we prosper–together. As a state, we succeed when Coloradans are allowed to access our state’s vast natural resources in a way that best supports our communities.
Learn more about about Colorado’s existing setback rules.