Recognizing that his state has a long history of complex oil and natural gas drilling issues, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday gave an initial pep talk to the first meeting of a 19-member task force charged with developing recommendations for addressing local issues regarding oil/gas development for the state legislature to consider early next year.
The state’s Department of Natural Resources has created a website with plans to provide online gavel-to-gavel coverage of the sessions, which are scheduled through Feb. 27 (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24). The task force is co-chaired by La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt and XTO Energy Inc. President Randy Cleveland.
A self-described "incurable optimist," Hickenlooper said he expects good results from the eclectic panel, which he formed as a political compromise to eliminate the need for competing statewide ballot initiatives (see Shale Daily, Aug. 5).
Hickenlooper encouraged task force members to set aside deep-seated differences and "find a way to respect both sides of this issue, recognizing the rights of private property and also the rights of quiet enjoyment." He said the issue is much larger than the state, “it exists in Pennsylvania and Ohio; Texas and Wyoming and really is across the country."
Citing the responsibility of elected officials to represent both their constituents and the common good, Hickenlooper said he is not sure what the final result will look like, but he is confident that task force members will agree to something. He also recognizes that the issues surrounding oil/gas drilling are "complex and have a long history, so the task force is going to have to be fair, productive and really focused."
Hickenlooper said "we do things differently in Colorado, we take the time to listen to the other side and really try to understand the nuances of the concerns are on any given issue.
"I can't wait to see what you come up with over the next several months.”
The rest of the all-day session included remarks by each of the task force members and a two-hour public comment period. The task force members generally expressed more concern and support for greater local control over oil/gas development, while a majority of public speakers supported the industry's preference for state, rather than local, oversight.
In between, presentations were given by the state attorney generals office and Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; Paula Swenson, Gunnison County commissioner; and Geoff Wilson, general counsel for the Colorado Municipal League.
Lepore said COGCC is on track to inspect 31,700 oil/gas wells this year.