Area gas and oil operators received intensive training Thursday on new regulations set to go into effect in just a couple of weeks.
The new rules were drawn up after legislation was passed in 2007 instructing the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to give greater consideration to wildlife, public health and the environment.
The regulations have yet to receive their final stamp of approval from the Legislature but are set to go into effect April 1, or May 1 on federal lands.
Proponents of the new rules say they are not overly onerous and will help protect the state's natural resources. Critics say they will hamper energy development and drive away jobs amid a national recession.
During an introduction, COGCC Environmental Manager Debbie Baldwin echoed the thoughts of many in the industry.
"A lot of people are going, 'Why are there so many changes? What was wrong with the old way we were doing business?'" she said.
She said the state's energy boom - which brought about 15,000 new wells to the state in the last decade - necessitated greater oversight.
The daylong session dug into the nitty-gritty of the complex regulations, highlighting the changes.
Among the new requirements: Operators must, in certain circumstances, work with the Colorado Division of Wildlife to minimize the effects of drilling on wildlife, consult with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment when asked to by a local government, and notify not only landowners where they will be drilling but also those with adjacent land.
La Plata County Energy Council Executive Director Christi Zeller, among about 200 people who attended, said that "any time that we can have face time with those up in Denver" is helpful, especially given the impending effective date.
She said she still has many unanswered questions about the new rules and hopes the COGCC soon provides additional explanations on its Web site. The Frequently Asked Questions section on the rules was blank Thursday.
COGCC officials said Thursday's turnout, which included mostly industry representatives but also elected county officials and staff members, was the biggest of any of the training sessions.