COGCC Issues New Rules on Flowline Disclosure

By Frances Folin

With the booming population in Colorado, more and more people have found themselves moving closer to oil and gas operations. This has had some grave consequences in recent times, but the industry has been quick to respond to local concerns.

Following last year’s fatal home explosion in Firestone, Colorado, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (“COGCC”) has been working with the public and industry partners to provide new guidance and rules for underground flowlines associated with oil and gas development. Yesterday, the COGCC released new rules tightening regulations on flowlines in Colorado.

Under the new rules, operators in Colorado will need to disclose to COGCC regulators the location of pipelines installed after May of this year. In addition, operators will need to identify the location of known existing lines by October 2019.  The COGCC has also formed a task force that over the coming year will investigate inspection technologies, which operators may be required to use in the future, to help operators identify unknown existing flowlines and possible flowline leaks more easily.

The new rules are responsive to both public and industry concerns. While disclosure is required to the COGCC, local governments may also request and, upon execution of a confidentiality agreement, access the flowline information disclosed to the COGCC.  This will provide additional information to local governments to help them better prepare emergency management plans and further support community planning and development.  Although the information will not be generally available to the public, keeping the location of the flowlines non-public is crucial to protecting critical infrastructure and against possible tampering and terrorism.

While the location of the uncapped flowline which led to the Firestone explosion was known to the housing developer at the time of construction, the COGCC is hopeful that the new rules will collect the data necessary to help to prevent future tragedies.

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