Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

Activists who oppose issuing new permits for oil and gas operations hold up signs at a hearing of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.

Colorado oil and gas regulators have approved the first set of industry rules under a new law that makes protecting public health and the environment the state's top priority.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Wednesday put in place tougher requirements for "forced pooling," a practice that allows an energy company to extract oil and gas owned by multiple parties and then distribute the profits among them.

The commission also approved a provision that allows administrative law judges and hearing officers to handle some decisions so the commissioners can focus on the writing the new rules.

The revisions are expected to take more than a year.

A public comment period before the votes was marked by testy exchanges between supporters and opponents of oil and gas drilling.

At one point during the meeting, the COGCC paused public comment because people in the audience were interrupting testimony. A commission member asked for respect and in response, the members of the audience said that's what they are looking for, as well. Some also yelled back "stop poisoning us" at different times throughout the morning.

Will Allison, a spokesman for Energy In Depth, an outreach campaign launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said in a statement: “It’s disappointing that activists have chosen to interrupt a public hearing instead of respectively listening to their fellow Colorado residents. The oil and gas industry has worked hard to reduce emissions and are always looking for collaborative partners to boost the economy and protect the environment.”

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