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Colorado Oil and Gas Drops Challenge to Waste Disposal Rule

Victory: Drilling wastes will be safely disposed
April 4, 2011
Denver, CO —

The Colorado Petroleum Association (CPA) today gave up its attempt to roll back a 2008 Colorado regulation requiring companies to dispose of used waste pit liners in accordance with state solid waste laws. The CPA pit liner petition to repeal Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) Rule 905 was withdrawn at the commission’s regular meeting on Monday.

“CPA should be commended for its willingness to work within existing state rules,” said Earthjustice staff attorney Michael Freeman. “Rule 905 simply requires oil and gas companies to play by the same rules that apply to other industries doing business in Colorado. Those environmental laws protect Colorado communities, our drinking water, and our land."

New and more environmentally-protective oil and gas regulations were put into place in Colorado in 2008. CPA's petition, filed in March 2010, represented the first major attempt to roll back one of the rules.  Earthjustice opposed the petition on behalf of the Colorado Environmental Coalition and other conservation and sportsmen's groups.

Pit liners are large sheets of synthetic, impermeable material used to keep fluids and other mining waste products from seeping into the ground during drilling operations. Used pit liners are typically coated with a variety of chemicals and hydrocarbons. Burying liners in the ground could lead to contamination of soil and groundwater.

CPA argued that pit liners are exempt from federal environmental law (which is incorporated into Colorado state law) as "Exploration and Production waste" ("E&P waste"). In response, Earthjustice requested an opinion letter from the United States EPA on that issue. On September 15, 2010, EPA ruled that pit liners are not exempt as E&P waste.  The agency squarely rejected CPA’s argument stating, “the synthetic pit liners used in E&P operations are not covered by the E&P exemption.”

In announcing the withdrawal of its petition, CPA indicated that it is working to develop an approach with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to address its pit liners under current Colorado solid waste laws that govern landfill permitting and waste disposal. Earthjustice will continue to monitor that process to ensure that CPA identifies an environmentally sound solution.

Contacts

Mike Freeman, Earthjustice, (720) 989-6896

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.