Gas industry calls Curry’s revised surface-use measure ‘draconian’
Colorado’s oil and gas industry could be brought to a halt under new legislative changes being pursued by state Rep. Kathleen Curry, an industry spokesman said Monday.Greg Schnacke of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association said amendments that Curry, D-Gunnison, plans for her surface-use legislation make a problem bill far worse.”The draft amendments that we have seen, that have been circulating, can only be described as trying to bring the industry to a stop. They’re very draconian concepts that we don’t fully understand where they’re coming from,” Schnacke said.Curry’s bill was scheduled for a vote Monday in the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, but was delayed because the House of Representatives was busy working on other bills.Last week, Curry said she plans several changes to the bill. These include revising the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to say oil and gas must be developed in a way that protects property values of surface owners, making future COGCC members meet new conflict-of-interest standards, and clarifying that state law does not limit local governments from enacting land-use regulations regarding oil and gas development.Her original bill was aimed at forcing oil and gas developers to reach surface-use agreements to adequately compensate property owners for impacts related to drilling. Curry later considered changes that would have continued to allow the industry to post a bond and drill when agreements couldn’t be reached. But proponents of her original bill prevailed upon her last week to make further revisions because they feared the bill’s value was being lost.Industry officials have complained all along that Curry’s bill would delay drilling unduly and cause some loss of business to other states. But Schnacke said the latest changes would go further, inviting litigation for every project.He said local political pressure and decision-making would drive the state’s permitting and regulatory process.He called the conflict-of-interest language “a complete red herring,” saying the Legislature has rejected past attempts to address the composition of the COGCC.Some critics of the COGCC say it has too much industry representation, making it overly sympathetic to the industry.Schnacke said Curry’s bill would make it so no one with any industry experience could serve on the COGCC, even though other industries such as real estate and medicine have members on the boards that regulate them.”There’s no justification for singling this board out,” he said.Curry said the conflict-of-interest language was lifted from rules already governing the Public Utilities Commission.She noted that the Legislature already has revised the COGCC’s seven-member makeup so that two members aren’t allowed to be industry employees. And she said Russell George, of Rifle – now head of the state Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the COGCC – tried unsuccessfully to get similar conflict-of-interest language passed when he was speaker of the House of Representatives.”I don’t know if you can say that that means the issue has been dealt with,” she said.Curry said the whole point of her bill is to uphold the state Constitution, which says private property shouldn’t be taken or damaged for public or private use without just compensation.She said some of the changes she is making in her bill were in response to industry suggestions. As rewritten, the bill aims to make sure the COGCC has an active role in determining surface damages, rather than bypassing that board, Curry said.She also is proposing the hiring of a DNR ombudsman to provide information to surface owners – an idea that appears to have support on all sides of the issue, she said.But Schnacke said the industry already has many rules to follow, and Curry’s bill sets up a “pretty onerous regulatory system that would not exist anywhere else.”Curry said she hopes the committee vote on her bill will come on Wednesday.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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