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Colorado oil companies want to undo clean-up rules

Should Colorado oil drillers be required to clean up after themselves like every other industry in the state?

Audio from the July 8 Colorado Oil and Gas Commission hearing will stream live on the web

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Short-cutting environmental rules and lack of corporate responsibility were two factors that directly led to the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and some of the big oil companies operating in Colorado may subscribe to the same ethic.

Working on behalf of several big oil companies, the The Colorado Petroleum Association will ask state regulators to roll back one of the state’s new 2008 regulations requiring that pit liners be removed from drilling sites and disposed of in accordance with solid waste disposal rules.

The oil companies say they shouldn’t have to follow the same solid waste disposal rules that govern nearly every other industry in Colorado.

Instead, the oil companies want to be able to bury the pit liners in place, said Mike Freeman, an environmental attorney with Earthjustice. Freeman will represent the nonprofit public interest law firm at the July 8 hearing in Denver, when the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission will consider the industry request.

Audio from the hearing will be streamed live at the commission website beginning at 2 p.m.

The Colorado Petroleum Association did not return calls asking for comment Wednesday, but the group’s formal proposal to amend the rule is posted at this Scribd.com link.

Freeman said the association’s argument is that the rule is too costly for oil drilling companies.

“A lot of companies have rolled up their sleeves and are working with the new rules, but a few of the big players are putting their bottom line ahead of their responsibility to clean up after themselves,” Freeman said.

Colorado environmental groups say the application by the oil industry is a first shot in a political war to undo some of the 2008 rules and energy development develops into an issue for the 2010 election campaign. Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, for example, has said that state regulation is stifling growth in the energy sector, and that he would work to undo some of the rules.

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