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Colorado's public lands are faced with new challenges but water and land management depend on working together. Read about the relationship between water and land in Colorado and how Coloradans are converging to restore Colorado's public lands in the Spring 2018 issue of Headwaters magazine.

Browse articles and find a flipbook of the magazine here.

Connecting the Drops

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Water Education Colorado

Regulators Just Say No

Oil, gas industry must follow tighter water quality rules

Colorado's water-quality regulators decided to retain oversight of stormwater runoff at oil and gas construction sites, instead of turning regulation over to another state agency which oversees the industry.

By unanimously deciding to regulate stormwater runoff at small oil and gas sites, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission put the state in the lead nationally in enacting more stringent water-pollution regulations than the federal government, despite protests from oil and gas industry associations.

The rules require construction stormwater permits for one- to five-acre sites. Opponents protested the rules, meant to prevent erosion and sedimentation of waterways. They argued that the state Water Quality Control Commission had no authority to regulate stormwater at any oil and gas well construction sites dues to language in the 2005 Energy Bill, and maintained that the Colorado Oil and Gas Commissions should handle oversight.

Earlier this year, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the Colorado Petroleum Association sued the state, claiming it couldn't contradict the federal exemption.

EPA Regional Stormwater Coordinator Greg Davis told the commission the agency didn't intend to prevent states from enacting their own water quality regulations.

The issue attracted an unusual amount of public attention—including more than 2,300 individual comments. Nine water districts, 13 municipalities, more than 20 state legislators and U.S. Congressmen Ken Salazar and John Salazar also asked the commission to keep its oversight.

Proponents said the industry should not be exempt from the same basic stormwater and erosion control requirements Colorado builders must meet, and asked the commission to protect waterways.

‘We're not only concerned with just erosion or sediment,’ says Eileen List, Grand Junction's environmental regulatory coordinator. ‘We're also concerned about any stormwater coming into contact with any production or drilling fluids.’
Supporters also said the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was too close to the industry to protect water quality.

‘The program has to be both responsible and effective, and we weren't seeing that at the COGCC,’ says water quality commissioner Martha Rudolph.

And the oil and gas industry is booming in the state—Colorado ranks sixth in the nation in gas production and 11th in oil production, according to the COGCC.

COGA attorney Ken Wonstolen says their suspended lawsuit does not apply to the latest decision and says it's ‘too early to tell’ whether his clients will pursue the issue. The lawsuit's stay expires in February.

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