While he said Colorado has some of the strictest standards in the nation for oil and natural gas development, Gov. John Hickenlooper pledged to toughen the state’s protections for air and water, working with lawmakers, the energy industry and environmental groups.

“We’re committed to holding the oil companies to the highest standards to protect Coloradans and our air and water,” Hickenlooper said in part of his state-of-the-state address last Thursday.

In this regard, Hickenlooper said he is working with all the stakeholders to pass legislation this year that he described as strengthening the penalties that the state will have in place for violations of air/water permits and rules.

“We have been able to bring many in the industry together with the environmental community to work toward solutions,” he said, adding his frequent claim that Colorado is a “national leader” in developing strong regulations. As a result, the state has what he thinks are the strongest hydraulic fracturing (fracking) fluid disclosure rules in the nation, Hickenlooper said.

“We are proposing the nation’s first-ever methane capture rule (see Shale Daily, Nov. 18, 2013), making Colorado the leader in the nation in controlling emissions,” Hickenlooper said.

Even regarding the national issue of the sage grouse, which has challenged many western states besides Colorado, Hickenlooper said in his role as chair of the Western Governors’ Association that the species can be protected without stopping positive economic activity throughout his state and the rest of the West.

“I believe we can protect the sage grouse while at the same time allowing ranches, farms and other economic activity to flourish,” said Hickenlooper, noting that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has agreed to visit Colorado to observe mitigation measures the state has taken in conjunction with other western states (see Daily GPI, March 20, 2008).