Western Wire

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the federal government and Colorado’s oil and gas regulators that expired at the end of December 2019 has been extended indefinitely, a temporary fix until a new agreement can be signed this year.

The decade-old MOU between two Interior Department agencies and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission establishes how the federal government and state regulators administer oil and gas development on Bureau of Land Management lands that require state approvals, including coordination of permitting.

The MOU extension signed this week between the BLM’s Colorado State office, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region, and COGCC was signed by Jamie Connell, State Director for Colorado BLM, on January 13th. Jeff Robbins, COGCC Director, also signed the same day, while Jennifer Eberlien of U.S. Forest Service signed on the 14th.

“Pursuant to paragraph L of the Memorandum of Understanding . . . Concerning Oil and Gas Permitting on BLM and National Forest Lands in Colorado, the expiration date of the agreement is extended indefinitely until the parties sign a new memorandum of understanding,” the MOU states, adding that the extension was retroactively considered to have been in effect from December 31, 2019, when the previous extension expired.

The original MOU expired last year, and an extension was put forth to cover the remainder of 2019, as Western Wire reported last July.

A new MOU should come in 2020, according to BLM Colorado spokesman Jayson Barangan.

“The extension is indefinite right now,” Barangan told Western Wire. “Rulemaking and a new MOU with us and COGCC and Forest Service will likely be finalized in 2020.”

BLM would continue to work with state regulators as they continue their rulemaking process following the passage last year of SB 181, a comprehensive reform of oil and gas regulations in Colorado, Barangan said.

State officials are granted some input into permitting on federal lands including reservations and national forests. The BLM determines which lands and minerals it manages are available for oil and gas leasing, development and production, and under what terms and conditions through its public land-use planning process. Our land use plans are designed to be compatible with existing state plans and policies.

Additionally, there are federal authorities that are delegated to the state, including those for air and water resources.

The rulemaking process is expected to continue throughout 2020.

Late last week Barangan told Western Wire that an extension was imminent.

“That is correct, the MOU expired Dec. 31. We are, however, in the process of signing a temporary extension of the MOU with COGCC and the USFS. The MOU does not change the BLM’s authority on oil and gas development on public lands. It is in best interest of both the state and BLM to respect each other’s authorities, and we continue to value our partnership with COGCC,” Barangan said.