Colorado eForm Adds Efficiency to Oil and Gas Permits
By Nathan Dickerson, CSG Policy Analyst
Like many states, Colorado has made smart use of technology to deliver services more efficiently and affordably.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission’s eForm program is just one example. The program, one of eight national winners of The Council of State Governments’ Innovations Awards, has helped reduce the average time it takes to get a permit for drilling a well from 45 days to 30 days.
“It’s also helped automate and connect the various state agencies,” said Marc Fine, the Technology Services manager in the Governor’s Office of Information Technology. It’s made many qualitative improvements in user experience as well.
“The old system was very cumbersome,” said Fine. “We had papers for every well in the state, and there were over 100,000 of them.”
The commission was formed in the early 50s, and not a single piece of paper has ever been destroyed.
“Making that system electronic was a huge step in the right direction,” Fine said.
The major catalyst for change, said Fine, came around 2007 when the legislature required the commission to review its rules and make changes with regard to the environment and wildlife. The new processes required more coordination between the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and other state agencies, like the Department of Health and Environment as well as the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
This created a problem, Fine said.
“Passing so many papers from one agency to the next was going to be very inefficient, and this made it clear just how much sense it made to create an electronic filing system,” he said
“What makes the system so much easier to use,” said Fine, “is that now rather than having to move lots of forms around for a variety of approvals, there is an electronic document that everyone has access to online.”
This central electronic resource has even helped provide a convenient tool for managing public comments, which Colorado permits during the first 20 days of submission on certain forms. Agency staff screens comments for acceptable language, but then posts comments online.
The system also features built-in notifications, which send email alerts to agencies when something needs consultation, which can reduce confusion and frustration, Fine said.
“One of the things that has been especially satisfying to our users is that they are now dealing with a much more transparent process,” he said. “Whereas before, you would submit an application and just wait for it to be approved. Now, thanks to the eForm system, you can track the progress of your permit as it goes through stages of approval.”
The new system features a detailed dashboard that focuses on a variety of tasks, which represent the different reviewing responsibilities of the agency groups. Users can even see which agency staff are assigned that particular task and when the task is due to be completed. This access is open to operators and the public. It’s a system that prevents a lot of unnecessary frustration because, as Fine noted, “You know what’s going on and where (your form) is.”
Access to the system is convenient. “Now a well operator, our staff, or even members of the public can walk through the process of permitting just by visiting our website,” said Fine.
Colorado offers six forms online and expects to add more soon. It’s the first state to implement such a robust system, although other states, like Alabama and Nebraska, are implementing similar systems.
Managing data electronically also has helped the office be more productive.
“I’ve been able to reallocate data entry staff that were processing these forms to production reporting, which requires keeping up with roughly 45,000 active wells,” said Fine.