Health-related Oil and Gas Task Force recs gets state funding

Photo: Natural gas storage tanks, Noble Energy, north of Greely
A large tank battery site owned by Noble Energy north of Greeley. The Colorado Department of Health is hiring more people to do air quality inspections around facilities such as this.

A health-related recommendation from February’s Oil and Gas Task Force meeting will get state funding, now that Gov. John Hickenlooper has approved the so-called "long bill." The wide-sweeping appropriations bill distributes money across many state departments for next fiscal year's budget.

The largest and most significant will send nearly $2 million to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Executive Director Dr. Larry Wolk said about $1 million in new funding will enable his department to convert 11 part-time employees to full-time status in order to beef up air quality monitoring around oil and gas well pads.

"Whether you’re from industry, whether you’re a civic leader, whether you’re an environmentalist, I think there’s universal and unanimous consent for these recommendations from the entire task force," Wolk said.

An additional $990,000 is aimed at one-time expenses involved in establishing a health complaint and information line related to oil and gas health concerns. Longer term, Wolk said the Task Force recommendation also calls for CDPHE officials to work on a human health risk assessment study, which will require additional funding.

Also in the "long bill," the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is set to receive nearly $1.4 to fund 12 new workers who will support additional well inspections.

Some of the remaining recommendations will require rules to be made by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

The Oil and Gas Task Force weighed about 35 recommendations, but only nine received the required two-third majority vote from members.

Task Force Chair Gwen Lachelt told CPR in February she was disappointed with the results because they failed to incorporate more tools for communities to institute local controls over oil and gas operations.