Few oil-gas companies say they can't meet new flood rules

By Dan Elliott, Associated Press

Only four of the estimated 500 oil and gas companies operating in Colorado say they can't meet the April 1 deadline to implement new safety rules to limit spills during major floods, according to regulators.

DENVER (AP) — Only four of the estimated 500 oil and gas companies operating in Colorado say they can't meet the April 1 deadline to implement new safety rules to limit spills during major floods, according to regulators.

The rules require such precautions as remote shut-off devices for wells and installing anchors to help keep tanks from toppling in floodwaters. They apply to facilities within a government-designated 100-year flood plain, the area that would be inundated by a so-called 100-year flood — a deluge so strong the odds of it occurring in any year are 100-to-1.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission imposed the rules after a 2013 flood along the Front Range caused the release of 48,000 gallons of oil and 43,000 gallons of polluted water.

The flooding killed 10 people and caused $3 billion in damage. Nearly 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.

Companies had until Feb. 1 to ask for a waiver or extension to the rules. Chevron Production Co., Extraction Oil & Gas, Peterson Energy Operating Inc. and PDC Energy Inc. requested more time to retrofit more than 200 wells, tanks and other facilities, commission documents show.

In some cases, the companies plan to shut down the affected facilities but are awaiting permits from another agency. In others, companies said they just learned that redrawn flood plains now include more of their facilities.

The commission hasn't acted on the requests.

It's not clear how many facilities are covered by the rules. The commission estimated in 2014 that more than 5,900 wells were within 500 feet of a waterway big enough to have a name, but flood plains don't necessarily conform to that 500-foot margin.

The rules were not controversial compared with other regulations in Colorado, such as the minimum distance between wells and houses and air-pollution controls.

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