Lobbyist: Bill threatens local controls on oil & gas | PostIndependent.com

Lobbyist: Bill threatens local controls on oil & gas

John ColsonPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, Colorado CO

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A bill before the Colorado Legislature is aimed at eliminating any local control over oil and gas activities, according to the Colorado Municipal League, which is opposing the bill.Introduced by state Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, Senate Bill 88 is before the Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Joyce Foster, D-Denver. Its title is “Preempt Local Regulation of Oil and Gas Operations.”According to a bulletin in the Colorado Municipal League’s Jan. 23 Statehouse Report, the bill is “aimed at radically limiting or completely extinguishing local government authority over one class of industrial land use: oil and gas operations.”Garfield County Commissioner John Martin, however, believes the bill is little more than a restatement of existing law.”As I read it, local regulations are the ones that would be ‘operational conflicts,'” Martin said. He was referring to existing state law that gives the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) complete jurisdiction over, as Martin termed it, “everything on the pad and underground.”Local governments, Martin continued, have jurisdiction only over the land-use aspects of the industry, including traffic concerns, air and water quality issues, and the creation of man camps to house employees who work on the drilling rigs and other remote facilities.”I see it as pretty much the status quo,” Martin said.But the municipal league and Colorado Counties Inc. (CCI), a lobbying organization for county governments, believe the bill would have serious, negative repercussions if passed.”It would be devastating,” said Andy Karsian, legislative supervisor for CCI. “We would undo years of productive relationship-building with the oil and gas industry.”He said that CCI’s Land Use and Natural Resources Steering Committee discussed the bill recently, and unanimously voted to oppose it.The bill would eliminate local governments’ abilities to deal with such land-use matters as pipelines along public roads, as well as maintenance of roads used by the industry’s heavy trucks.”Unfortunately, there are some bad actors, just like in any industry,” Karsian said, that would welcome any increased freedom from local regulations.In essence, Karsian maintained, the bill would do away with the “operational conflicts” dividing line between what the COGCC controls and what local governments have authority over.Were the bill to pass, he said, all control over the oil and gas industry would go to the state agency.”With the state, they rely heavily on the industry” to police itself, Karsian said. That’s largely because the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is understaffed for monitoring active drilling fields all over the state.Karsian argued that the needs of local communities concerning land use issues would not be served well by such an arrangement.He said he is working closely with Geoff Wilson, legislative liaison for the Colorado Municipal League, as the bill awaits a hearing before the Senate’s local government committee.Erin Vanderberg, staff for the committee, said the first hearing on the bill is scheduled for Feb. 16.jcolson@postindependent.com

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