Garfield County to continue oil and gas regulations economic impact study into new year
An effort by Garfield County commissioners to study the impacts of recent new state oil and gas regulations on the local economy is expected to produce its first findings as soon as February.
But it may take several years of study to gauge the impacts over the long haul as those regulations play out, commissioners said.
Commissioners, in their first meeting of the new year Tuesday, approved $51,000 in carryover oil and gas mitigation funds to complete the initial stage of the study that began last year.
The study is being conducted by Timothy Considine, professor of energy economics and a researcher for the University of Wyoming. Considine has been involved as a consultant in other efforts supported by Garfield and other energy producing counties to try to sway the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), as it continues to implement provisions of the 2019 Senate Bill 181.
“I’d like to seek the costs to continue this for another year, and maybe (multiple years), because these impacts are so large and intrusive,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said.
“We get criticized for spending money on these rules and regulations, but I’ll say again that I think it’s a prudent decision on our part,” he said. “The natural gas industry is going to be here for a long time, and as much as some people don’t want to use fossil fuel, it’s still so integral for our society.”
Commissioner Mike Samson concurred.
“I will also defend that this is money well spent,” Samson said. “We have tried our best to help people understand how we are hurting from this, and how it’s not only hurting Garfield County but people worldwide.”
Garfield County Oil and Gas Liaison Kirby Wynn said the study was not completed in 2021 due to a lack of immediate data from operators regarding the impacts of the relatively new regulations.
Among the regulations are the newly approved methane gas release and other air quality rules from the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) that are just now being implemented. The COGCC’s 2,000-foot well setback requirement also has not been largely put into practice, due to a downturn in drilling activity in recent years related to low natural gas prices and other factors.
Wynn said he anticipates a presentation on the initial findings of the economic impact study in February or March. A total of $65,000 was allocated for the study in March of last year.
Among the most vocal critics of the county’s spending on consultants, lawyers and lobbyists around the new oil and gas regulations has been the recently organized Garfield County Taxpayer Accountability Project.
Project spokesman Allyn Harvey said he believes it will be difficult to quantify all the economic impacts related to the new regulations, and he doubts it’s the county commissioners’ intent to do a comprehensive study in the first place.
“What they’re doing doesn’t take into account the jobs and businesses that are negatively impacted by oil and gas activity,” he said.
A comprehensive approach would engage the recreation industry, professional services and weigh the other amenities people are drawn to the area for, Harvey said.
“It seems to be designed to prove a point about the loss of oil and gas industry jobs, instead of understanding the real situation,” he said.
The Garfield County Taxpayer Accountability Project has been working since last year to track what it says is a misuse of the county’s oil and gas mitigation funds, approximately $1.8 million of which has been allocated toward the county’s participation in the COGCC and AQCC rulemaking and other lobbying efforts.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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