Bills aimed at energy business are pointed in the right direction
People in the gas patch of western Colorado have complained about the noise, dust, odor and truck traffic that come with oil and gas production. Some also say their health has been severely affected. Largely in response to that outcry, the state legislature has proposed a host of reform bills aimed at lessening those impacts through new regulations. If they pass, they would change the way the state regulatory agency, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), does business. One of the bills 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. One would minimize the effects of oil and gas drilling on surface land owners. Another would protect wildlife habitat.Others are aimed at ensuring volumes of gas produced at the well head are accurately reported and would open previously confidential energy company tax records to the Department of Revenue.An especially crucial bill would change the makeup of the COGCC, expanding it from seven to nine members, decreasing the number of industry representatives from five to three and adding a mineral royalty owner and representatives of wildlife, land reclamation and local government.The bills have had good support in the House and most are now making their way through the Senate.The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, which lobbies for industry in the legislature, has said the bills are contradictory and a piecemeal approach to reform. It has asked Gov. Bill Ritter to override the bills and hold stakeholder meetings to come up with an “energy agenda” with broader support. Ritter supports the bills, especially the one changing the COGCC’s makeup. His administration introduced this bill and he has said it will get to the root of the problem.While most of the natural gas development in western Colorado takes place in remote areas, some occurs close to rural homes. Especially hard-hit are the homeowners in places such as Dry Hollow south of Silt where gas production continues to escalate.We applaud state legislators for listening to people’s concerns and acting on them. More representation of interests besides the energy industry is needed on the COGCC to bring a balanced view to oil and gas development in the state. We also support the bills that would give more protection to landowners who do not own their mineral rights and have little say in how development takes place on their property.We agree with Gov. Ritter, who said legislation should not be too burdensome for energy developers. However, energy developers must be mindful of how their industry affects people on the land.
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