COGCC postpones first SB-181 decision |

COGCC postpones first SB-181 decision

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission held its first meeting regarding the Senate Bill 181 rulemaking process, and if it was any indication, the state is in for a long and contentious debate.

SB 181 was signed by Governor Polis in April as it seeks to reshape how the oil and natural gas industry is regulated in Colorado, looking to establish more local control despite strong pushback from industry supporters.

The 500 Series rulemaking kicked off the reformation process for the COGCC as issues pertaining to administrative law judges, who will have more authority in certain situations under the new rules, were discussed. The discussion took two days worth of meetings with the COGCC board deciding to postpone its decision until next month.

“While we appreciate the position that the COGCC is in, their decision today raises concerns about the proper order of rulemakings and procedures needed to successfully implement SB 181,” Andrew Forkes-Gudmundson, Associate Program Director at Citizens for a Healthy Community in Delta County, said in a press release sent by Western Slope organizations on Wednesday. “Appointing [administrative law judges] to consider oil and gas applications without first adopting the SB 181-mandated rules to protect public health, safety, and welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources seems backwards, and contrary to the spirit and intention of SB 181.”

Garfield County Oil and Gas liaison Kirby Wynn spoke at the COGCC hearing this week as he was one of the representatives of the Western Slope Local Government Coalition, which included Weld County.

“Garfield County and Western Colorado have been at the forefront of navigating oil and gas development very effectively [with] successful approaches that work for our citizens and communities,” he said.

The Western Slope Governments Coalition, which included Garfield County, New Castle, Parachute and Silt, supported holding more hearings closer to the lands that were impacted as well as having Administrative Law Judges from —and located on — the Western Slope.

West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association Executive Director Eric Carlson explained that their preference would be to physically have the law judges on the Western Slope.

“There’s great value in living and working here rather than just being assigned to the West Slope,” he said.

Though the discussion centered on the appointment of Administrative Law Judges and pooling standards, some of the future discussions regarding local government control are expected to be far more contentious topics.

Carlson said it was clear from the meeting that there will be a steep learning curve for the new board as an issue like administrative law judges took two meetings with the decision postponed to next month.

He felt it was a sign that the state is in for a long process.

The feeling was shared by those seeking stricter standards as well.

“The contentious process of this small rulemaking has made it clear that much is at stake and that for the full intention of SB 181 to be realized, impacted residents must be ready to participate throughout,” Rodger Steen Chair of Western Colorado Alliance’s Oil and Gas Committee (based in Grand Junction and working across Western Colorado) said in the press release. “We ask that the COGCC quickly move to address the issues impacted residents identified in another rulemaking so that future decisions can be made in a framework that gives impacted people more voice in these decisions.”

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