Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation work-group meetings come to a close
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) held about 35 “stakeholder work group” meetings in January and February to hear concerns and take public input about its proposed rules for the oil and gas industry in the state.
Those work group meetings ” attended by various constituencies such as environmental organizations and the energy industry ” ended last week.
Some praised the open, inclusive nature of the meetings, while members of the energy industry are hoping their insights during the meetings will remain fresh as the COGCC drafts the new rules.
Judy Jordan, Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison, said she attended 25 meetings and from what she saw, the COGCC got a “good sampling and a very comprehensive view of what all the perspectives are” about the draft rules. Much of the stakeholder group sessions were heavily represented by industry officials, Jordan said.
“I think everyone who participated in it is glad they can finally come up for air,” Jordan said. “I think the [agency] gave a very fair hearing to all the different perspectives.”
The “stakeholder” meetings began about a month after the COGCC issued its initial “pre-draft proposal” of possible oil and gas rules late last year. That proposal came as a result of House bills 1298 and 1341, which the state Legislature passed last year. Those two bills expanded the focus of the COGCC to consider public health and wildlife impacts, and require use of best management practices to minimize harm from oil and gas development.
However, some lawmakers have said the proposed rules go beyond the legislation’s intent. The industry also has criticized proposed rules, saying they could create permitting delays of several months and cause uncertainty to their business operations in the state.
The COGCC’s draft rules are expected to be released at the end of this month.
Duke Cox, interim director of the Western Colorado Congress, attended about 20 of the meetings and said they were a “very worthwhile experience” and “very valuable.”
“It was good for the state agencies to have input from all of the stakeholders at the same time,” said Cox of the WCC, an advocacy organization that supports environmental stewardship. “I think that was a real positive benefit. It was an open discussion, anyone could participate and anyone could say what was on their minds. We were able to give a lot of input, in that a lot of the things that industry has said during this [rule-making process] were easy to dispute.”
Cox said the energy industry has wanted to paint some “picture of unfairness” over the proposed rules. He said that was unfair to the state agencies, which include the COGCC, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, that have worked on the proposed rules.
“The whining and the crying and the wailing you have heard from the industry … [is] inappropriate,” Cox said.
But Meg Collins, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said she could not stress enough how important the rule-making process is to the energy industry in Colorado.
“We are fighting for our jobs,” Collins said in an e-mail.
Collins said it was her hope that “for the economic viability of Colorado and for the livelihood of our industry” that energy companies and its representatives had a significant impact on the stakeholder process. She said the proposed rules, as currently written, would result in less tax revenue to local and state governments, increased costs to state government and industry companies, along with reducing the production of natural gas.
Collins said industry provided thousands of hours of technical and geological expertise during the stakeholder meetings ” and again criticized the proposed rules put forward by the COGCC late last year because they were drafted without the input of the industry.
“We hope the state has heard our comments … and that the draft rules are dramatically different from the fundamentally flawed pre-draft rules,” Collins said. “Those comments have come from hard-working Colorado families, local business owners and local government officials, all of whom are concerned with the direction our state government is going.”
The COGCC expects to adopt the new rules on July 1.
Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117
Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
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