As a bill to ban actively engaged oil and natural gas representatives from serving on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) neared a final vote in the state senate Monday or Tuesday, a coalition of business and citizens groups commended the more than 120 local elected officials who have publicly supported the governor’s pursuit of reasonable oil and gas solutions.
House bill 1269 has passed through that chamber and through a senate committee and is in line for a senate vote (See Daily GPI, May 1). However, it is one of a long list of bills scheduled to be considered before the legislative term ends on Wednesday, and it is not certain if or when it will make it to the senate floor. Even if it is approved, it is not likely to be signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has been a strong supporter of oil and gas development.
The groups sounding their support for Hickenlooper did not specifically address the pending legislation. However, they said “natural gas is a critical economic engine for this state and region and must be encouraged if we want to see our economy thrive.”
They included associations representing everything in the state from cattlemen to auto dealers, farmers, retailers and the Denver metropolitan area. The various groups have signed on because of the potential overall impact on the state’s economy, said spokesman Doug Flanders of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA). “You can’t go after one business without it having a downhill effect on the rest.”
COGA contends that Colorado can’t stay competitive if it keeps changing the rules and regulations every five years. Current regulations call for three oil and gas representatives to serve on the nine-member commission.
In 2008 there was a complete overhaul of the COGCC, a division of the state’s Department of Natural Resources; at that time industry representation was reduced from five members out of seven to the current makeup.
While the bill apparently would allow representatives who have retired from the oil and industry to serve on COGCC, Flanders said that with technology changing rapidly, the state panel needs industry people with current involvement. “Technology is moving so quickly, we need people on the ground doing it now, not yesterday’s expertise.”
The bill also includes a redefinition of “waste” or the unnecessary loss of the resource through inefficient operating practices, which would subordinate the COGCC’s historic charge to prevent waste and protect correlative rights to the protection of public health, safety and welfare, the environment and wildlife.
This change, COGA maintains, would invite challenge to every COGCC decision based on a contention by a neighbor, member of the public, or organization that it negatively impacts public health, safety, and welfare. “This would have a dramatic impact on mineral rights owners everywhere,” Flanders said, noting that a six-state interstate compact commission agreed to the current definition in 1935. Dozens of cases and thousands of regulatory decisions have been based on the current law.
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