Colorado wins suit regulating commercial production waste

The state won a lawsuit last week that upholds its solid waste regulations regarding commercial exploration and production, or brine waste.
Waste from exploration or production is made of salt water mixed with small amounts of hydraulic fracturing chemicals, crude oil and other hydrocarbons.
The state requires companies to meet solid waste disposal regulations, as well as any regulations by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. The rules require that this kind of waste be impounded in a synthetically lined container. The rules do not cover impoundments owned by oil wells, which are regulated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission.
The rules became effective Dec. 30, 2008, and most companies are already complying with the requirements.
“The rules already have begun to protect Colorado’s health and environment, so we are very pleased with the court’s decision,” ¬†said Melanie Granberg, secretary of Colorado’s Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission. “We felt all along we had carefully considered all the facts and circumstances before us, and that we acted in accordance with the direction we received from the legislature in enacting the new rules for these impoundments.”
Section 17 had been appealed by two brine waste facility operators in Moffat County who argued that synthetic liners should not be mandatory, and that facilities existing before the rule went into effect should have been “grand-fathered” out of the liner requirement. They also asserted that the schedule for complying with the regulations was too short and would force facilities into bankruptcy.
The court disagreed on all counts, declaring that Section 17 reasonably regulates existing and future impoundments that could negatively affect the health and safety of the public. The court noted that Section 17 closely followed the General Assembly’s 2008 law requiring new impoundment regulations. The 2009 law provided for waiver of the liner requirement if certain requirements are met. The 2009 law made the mandatory liner requirement clear, in the court’s opinion.