House approves new oil and gas rules
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” The Colorado House approved controversial new rules for the oil and gas industry Thursday.
Republicans objected, warning the rules could cripple one of the state’s biggest industries and economic drivers.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission crafted the rules at the direction of the Legislature. The intent was to increase protections for public health, private property and the environment.
Leslie Robinson, of Rifle, was among the people who visited the Capitol with the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance last week to lobby in support of the rules. She said that if energy companies who want no rules followed good drilling practices to begin with, there would be no need for the new rules.
She said GVCA members lobbied in support of the rules to give lawmakers the regular citizen’s point of view instead of attorneys and lobbyists.
“I thought it’s important that they hear what it’s like to live in Rifle on ground zero, to be in the sacrificial zone for the whole nation when it comes to natural gas development,” she said. “You drive downvalley and you can’t see blue sky in Rifle anymore because of the development going on.”
Opponents say the rules will hurt an already struggling industry. They point to soaring unemployment rates in oil- and gas-rich Garfield, Mesa and Weld counties. Robinson said drilling cutbacks have nothing to do with the rules because they’re not yet in effect, and the real reasons for the drilling cutbacks are economic factors such as an oversupply of natural gas.
Nate Strauch, spokesman for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said the national average for the number of active drilling rigs is down 27 percent now compared to late last year, but in Colorado it’s down more than 40 percent. He said there are 63 active rigs in Colorado, down from 110 last year.
“The administration has created a very unfriendly environment for oil and gas in Colorado,” he said. “That’s nearly 2,000 jobs that Colorado is missing. Colorado isn’t down 40 percent for nothing. It’s not down that much simply because of the economy. It’s the business environment we’ve created.”
Strauch said more than 350 people employed in the oil and gas industry directly or indirectly showed up at the Capitol Thursday, including about 70 people from Grand Junction. He said they were trying to convince the Legislature, “This isn’t big bad oil companies. This is me. This is my job. This is my company.”
He said COGA was “very displeased” the Legislature chose not to “listen to these people whose families are fed by the oil and gas industry.”
Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said earlier he had prepared more than 130 amendments to offer during the debate. Strauch said five were proposed but none of the amendments passed. Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, predicted recently that the rules would be the biggest fight of this year’s legislative session. She said Thursday that homeowners have complained for years about environmental problems caused by the oil and gas boom, and it’s time to address water and air quality issues.
“People will be there after oil and gas has come and gone,” she said.
About 100 rules were approved by the COGCC in December. They’re scheduled to go into effect April 1 if the Legislature approves them. The House will vote one more time on the bill before it goes to the Senate. No change in the vote is expected.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121
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