Commission rules do not apply to tribal lands

An article in the April 10 Durango Herald – “Bill seeks info on gas and oil spills” – may have left the wrong impression with readers about the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s response to spills. The article stated that the reason “regulators at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission initially did not know about the (2008) spill” (of hydraulic fracturing fluid) was “because COGCC rules only require reports for spills of more than five barrels – or 210 gallons – and the 150-gallon spill was below the reporting threshold.”

This is inaccurate. The reason why COGCC staff was unaware of the spill was because it occurred on Southern Ute Indian Tribe land, and COGCC rules do not apply to Indian trust lands or the Southern Ute Indian Tribe (see COGCC Rule 201 on the agency website). While a discussion about COGCC’s spill-reporting thresholds certainly is fair game, I would caution against using this event as an example of why change is needed. The COGCC is unlikely to receive any spill notifications on tribal lands, regardless of the reporting volume.

Karen Spray, environmental protection specialist, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

Durango

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