West Slope interests weigh in on oil and gas policy changes
Colorado oil and gas leaders and community groups hoping to reduce health impacts associated with the industry held competing rallies in Denver on Tuesday, prior to the state’s Senate Transportation & Energy Committee passing SB19-181 in the early hours on Wednesday.
The bill, introduced by Colorado Democratic leadership and Gov. Jared Polis last week, seeks to clarify the role of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and will give more authority to local governments in allowing oil and gas developments in their community.
It has since been met with widespread criticism and support from both sides of the aisle and from divergent groups across Colorado.
West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association Director Eric Carlson said he’s disappointed in the committee’s decision to forward the bill, especially since it just came down to party lines in a 4-3 decision.
He questioned the speed at which the bill was written. Since it’s such a major piece of legislation, both sides should have been consulted, Carlson said.
He said he’s concerned that the bill itself is very expansive in the powers and authority given to the COGCC.
“It changes [the COGCC’s] basic mission,” he added. “Mr. Robbins (Jeff Robbins, acting director of the COGCC) and the governor, and the administration want to move in that direction.”
Robbins was among the many to come out in support of the bill on Tuesday, according to reporting from the Greeley Tribune.
Testimony reportedly took over 12 hours and came from residents throughout Colorado, government and industry officials, as well as several Garfield County residents. Garfield County is the second-largest oil-and-gas producing county in Colorado, next to Weld County.
Carlson said the show of support for the industry was obvious throughout the testimony, as businesses and chambers of commerce from across the Western Slope came out against SB-181.
Last week, a coalition of Colorado business interests, including the Western Garfield Chamber of Commerce — serving Silt, Rifle and Parachute — sent a letter to Colorado’s Democratic leadership prior to the announcement of the legislation, concerned with the changes to the oil and natural gas regulatory framework.
Leslie Robinson, chair of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, one of several local community groups in support of the bill, said the industry may have been caught flat-footed by the bill, but GVCA has been working on these regulations for over 20 years.
“We need strong state regulations, in addition to more local control power, when local governments can’t or won’t protect health and safety, as in the case in Garfield County,” she told the committee.
Emily Hornback, director of Western Colorado Alliance, said she was proud of how many residents from throughout Colorado took time from their day-to-day schedules to speak in support of the bill.
“The takeaway was that rural Colorado showed up in support of this bill,” she added.