State regulators say drilling continues as Colorado revises oil and gas rules
Colorado officials say they have no plans to stop energy companies from drilling for oil and gas while regulators overhaul state rules to focus on health, safety and the environment.
Dan Gibbs, chief of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said Tuesday that lawmakers never intended for regulators to stop issuing drilling permits while they rewrite the rules.
Gibbs spoke at the first meeting of Colorado’s reorganized Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which will implement a new law that makes protecting the public and the environment the top priority of regulators.
Under the old law, regulators’ focus was on encouraging energy production.
Some environmentalists and community activists asked the commission to stop approving permits till the new rules are complete. Industry representatives argued against a moratorium.
The new-look Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is holding its inaugural meeting as it begins rewriting state rules to emphasize public safety instead of production.
Commissioners are meeting in Denver Tuesday for the first time since Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed a law mandating sweeping changes in oil and gas regulation.
The commission is still reorganizing and isn’t expected to begin rewriting drilling rules until later this year.
The new law weakens industry influence on the commission, reducing its representation from three members to one while adding experts in wildlife and public health.
Republicans also saw their influence wane, echoing their losses in the 2018 election. The new commission has four appointed Democratic members, two unaffiliated members and one Republican. The old commission had four appointed Democrats and three Republicans.
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Former Carbondale trustee Katrina Byars said she wants to bring a voice of environmental sustainability to the commission, and believes her opponent has served long enough.