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Colorado's Local Control Task Force Slow to Form

A governor's task force proposed as an 11th-hour compromise to avoid a ballot proposition fight over the issue of local control of oil/natural gas drilling, particularly hydraulic fracturing (fracking), has yet to get off the ground since Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced plans for it early this month.

News reports indicate that at least one of the two governor-chosen co-chairs, La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, has been inundated with requests from individuals who want to serve on the 18-member task force aimed at crafting recommendations to help minimize land use conflicts that can occur when siting oil and gas facilities near residential and commercial developments (see Shale Daily, Aug. 5).

The CEO from ExxonMobil unit XTO Energy Corp., Randy Cleveland, was named the other co-chair. He and local county elected officials were tasked with naming the rest of the panel, which was envisioned as having representatives from a broad range of stakeholder groups, including the oil/gas industry, agricultural, home building, conservation, local government and civic groups. It was not clear which state and industry organizations, if any, would be represented on the panel.

"The co-chairs and team are still reviewing applications (we received more than 200) but hope to have the members selected within the next two weeks," the governor's communications director, Kathy Green, told NGI's Shale Daily.

A spokesperson for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) told NGI's Shale Daily on Wednesday that his organization does not expect to have a representative on the task force. However, COGA intends to "weigh in" on some of the discussions if the task force thinks that would be helpful, the spokesperson said.

In a separate statement, COGA CEO Tisha Schuller said her organization expects to participate in what she hopes is a good stakeholder dialogue on Colorado oil/gas development. "We always learn and improve in constructive conversation, and I am confident this will be no exception," Schuller said.

With local governments wanting more of a say over oil/gas activity within their jurisdictions, Schuller said "Colorado's regulatory system has a strong role for local governments," and she is expecting the task force to produce "a conversation emphasizing mutual engagement and education."

With the large numbers of phone calls and emails from people wanting to participate, Lachelt told local news media last Monday that the level of interest proves the still-to-be-named panel is being "taken seriously."

Her outline of the task force composition cited six civic leaders/residents, six oil/gas industry representatives, and six "respected Coloradans." Lachelt said the members of the panel and an executive order outlining its goals should be released by the end of the month.

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