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Industry: Too many gas bills

Donna GrayGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. A state oil and gas industry association has asked Gov. Bill Ritter to put the brakes on a series of reform bills in the legislature.In a letter to Ritter, Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) President Ted Brown said the group believes “the patchwork of competing legislation” is the wrong approach and there is a need to bring industry and other stakeholders together to develop a statewide energy development plan. “Someone needs to calculate the consequences of all these bills,” said COGA Executive Director Greg Schnacke. “An industry of this size is not something you can just turn on its head in six weeks.”Energy reform needs to be considered and not pushed through “in quick fashion that creates this huge impact on industry,” which could cause companies to pull back on development and thereby effect the amount of severance tax revenue the state receives, he said.Rep. Kathleen Curry (D-Gunnison), who is sponsoring the majority of the reform bills, said there is no need to delay or prevent the legislation from taking its course.”I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it will expose anything we don’t already know,” she said.She also said COGA has backed the bills, including HB 1341, which seeks to change the makeup of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which regulates the industry.”The industry took a position that it was not opposed to 1341 on Friday (March 9),” she said, but now has reversed its course and stands opposed.”The people of Garfield County need to know that they reneged on their commitment to the governor’s office,” she said.Currently, six energy reform bills are pending in or have passed through the House.• HB 1139, sponsored by Curry and Sen. Josh Penry (R-Grand Junction), would change the formula for direct payments of mineral severance tax revenues to local governments in areas where energy development is having an impact.• HB 1142 is sponsored by Curry and Rep. Al White (R-Winter Park) in the House and Sen. Jim Isgar (D-Hesperus) and would give the Department of Revenue access to what are now confidential oil and gas company tax records.• HB 1180 (Curry, White and Isgar) would require the COGCC to ensure oil and gas production reporting is accurate.• HB 1223, sponsored by Curry, would require the COGCC to consult with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regarding the possible effects of oil and gas development on public health.• HB 1252, sponsored by Curry, seeks to minimize the effects of oil and gas drilling on surface landowners.• HB 1298, sponsored by Rep. Dan Gibbs (D-Silverthorne) and Sen. Lois Tochtrop (D-Adams County) would protect wildlife habitat from oil and gas development.House Bills 1139, 1142 and 1180 have passed in the House and are awaiting consideration by the Senate. HB 1223 has not been voted on in the House and HB 1223 is being considered by the House Appropriations Committee.More than 20 bills also propose using severance tax for funding a variety of state programs.Sponsored by Curry and Gibbs, HB 1341 would expand the oil and gas commission from seven to nine members and decrease the number of industry representatives from five to three. It would also add a mineral royalty owner and representatives of wildlife land reclamation and local government.HB 1341 was introduced to the House Friday and will be heard in committee today, Wednesday.Schnacke said the legislature has dealt with the issue of representation on the COGCC. “The fox guarding in the hen house (issue) has been vetted in the legislature three times and is not an issue.”Curry disagrees. “We know the makeup (of the COGCC) is biased to industry. I don’t know that a task force would tell us more than what we already know,” she said. For now, Schnacke said, as COGA awaits a reply from the governor’s office, it’s continuing to attend hearings on pending legislation and is hopeful the governor will bring stakeholders together under their guidance. “Our organization has a good track record working out these issues over the years.”Reform will also take time.Schnacke said the legislature last made sweeping changes to the COGCC – to increase the number of commissioners and add to its mission the protection of the public health, safety and welfare – in 1994. “It took three years to pass then four years of rule making.”


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