Gas industry should pay for impacts
The gas bill is past due with interest and penalties.If you looked back 25 years in community newspaper archives concerning oil shale, you would find numerous articles describing local government participation in the planning and approval processes addressing impacts. In addition, oil shale companies like Unocal and Exxon helped finance studies on health and environmental issues and mitigated the social and economic ones as well. Exxon even had to construct a community, Battlement Mesa, to house its workers and families. Local governments and their taxpayers did not have to pick up the energy impact tab. Oil shale companies took out their checkbook to pay. This is because under Colorado law, mining has a different set of regulations than oil and gas extraction.Oil and gas production is under the control and protection of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, with the majority of the COGCC members from the energy industry. Needless to say, the compensation to affected communities and their input on gas development is much less.Although recent mineral-severance taxes and fines are somewhat bankable in public relations terms, it hasn’t saved the gas industry from bad credit with local governments and the public in terms of mitigating the full impacts of gas exploration.For instance, COGCC has warned there would be gas-industry-led litigation if Rifle and Silt considered using special use permits and fees to compel the gas exploration companies to address impacts on roads, social services, emergency response, etc., within city limits. It is not wise to force local elected officials to choose between gas company lawsuit threats and serving the needs of their constituents – especially when these officials recall what oil shale gave them that the gas industry hasn’t.If the COGCC and the gas industry it supposedly regulates do not become more economically, environmentally and socially responsible, they may find themselves with a citizen-driven initiative on the ballot that will change the rules.The gas bill to pay for impacts to local governments is long overdue. And if this big IOU to local taxpayers … and voters … is not paid soon, expect a lot of added interest and penalties, too.The gas bill to pay for impacts to local governments is long overdue. And if this big IOU to local taxpayers … and voters … is not paid soon, expect a lot of added interest and penalties, too.
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