Dealing with drilling at state level
The big news from Denver is that four initiatives that were set to appear on the November ballot have been withdrawn. They were all related to the debate over oil and gas regulation and the degree to which local governments should have control. While advertised as a compromise, I see the outcome of the negotiations leading to these withdrawals as more of a delay than a result. An 18-member task force is being assembled to study the issues and make recommendations. I hope that the objective is not just to create more legislation, but also to understand how local entities can use existing regulations. Counties with long experience like Garfield have learned to use the existing structure effectively, but those counties where the industry is growing lack that degree of confidence.
We were going to be barraged this summer with attempts to educate us on the pros and cons of oil and gas production and regulation. I hope we all realize that these are complex subjects and even with this delay we need to educate ourselves and develop informed opinions. This set of issues will not go away.
Leases for drilling rights on and around the Roan Plateau, near Rifle, have been the subject of lawsuits seeking to negate or limit gas production in a roughly 80,000 acre tract of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. A settlement may be near that protects the sensitive area atop the plateau but allows development in the other areas under lease. The settlement has been endorsed by the governor and Congressman Tipton and would certainly contribute to jobs and the tax base of Western Colorado. If agreed to, the settlement would require that the companies holding leases be reimbursed for the partial lost value. Fearing some “claw back” or withholding from future federal mineral lease payments, the agreement has received some negative reaction from those of us who live in and represent the area.
I’ve been working with the governor’s budget office to get its support for a budget and legislation that ensures we don’t suffer a near-term financial impact because Federal Mineral Lease funds have been taken in the past to cover other state shortfalls. I have the administration’s support, and I’ll include action in the upcoming budget, to protect our flow of funds.
The Colorado Water Plan is starting to gain momentum. Our own basin round table is finishing up its input along with eight other basins. There is a public comment meeting at the Glenwood library at 5 p.m. Aug. 21.
I was recently honored by being asked to serve on the Northwest Council of the El Pomar Foundation. I’ve learned that in addition to generous grants, they are doing great work in western Colorado with a summer camp program run by our higher education institutions that motivates students toward college and careers.
I’m continuing to study for my new assignment on the Joint Budget Committee. It feels a little like getting an advanced degree in government. The state spends around $24 billion in about 22 departments, and they all seem to need more money. Every department wants to educate me about their issues and budgets and time is flying. The budget committee goes to work full time in November.
Thanks for reading these columns and following state issues. With so much happening internationally and nationally, it’s easy to forget how much local and state issues impact our lives. Let me know your thoughts.
“Under the Dome” appears on the second Tuesday of the month. State Rep. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, is in his first term in the state Legislature representing House District 57, which includes Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
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