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Colorado Oil, Gas Focus Shifts to Statewide Ballot

With some local oil and natural gas drilling ballot measures now on the books and a new, first-of-its-kind set of methane emissions rules (see Daily GPI, Feb. 24), Colorado's focus has shifted to potential ballot measures this fall to further regulate energy operations, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA).

"Right now the emphasis is on the state level and this year's November ballot," COGA Policy Director Doug Flanders told NGI on Tuesday. He noted that there are several proposals being kicked around, many variations on the same theme of trying to supplant state regulation of business activity with local control.

While local limitations for the most part have not had much impact on oil and gas operations to date, a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) would be profound, according to Flanders, who said a successful well these days cannot be realized without using fracking.

Under the statewide process, separate reviews by a state legislative counsel and ballot initiative review panel are required before formal signature gathering can begin in July; valid voter signatures must be secured by late August.

"If you haven't started by mid-July, it is unlikely you'll get anything on the ballot," Flanders said.

Among the measures being promoted is one that would take oversight from the state and give to local jurisdictions for all types of businesses, including oil and gas. Another would give locals oversight only over the energy business and a third bid would establish a statewide setback requirement for wells -- even though Colorado already has such rules (see Daily GPI, Jan. 11, 2013).

Flanders said the state Air Quality Control Board's new emission rules take effect later this spring, and COGA's focus is on "making sure" they are implemented correctly. "There were a few things we wanted to change, and some of them were, but now at this point we want to make sure they are implemented correctly, and if there are areas we think need to be tweaked we'll go back to the board and the Department of Health and Environment.

"At this point we are not looking backwards, we're moving forward."

Regarding the statewide ballot measure push, Flanders said at this point it is hard to gauge what type and how many measures will qualify, but COGA and its community and business allies are gearing up for an expected tough political campaign.

Among the industry’s supporters are rail and trucking interests because they ship equipment for the energy industry.

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