Guest opinion: Strong rules for oil and gas essential in protecting our way of life

Leslie Robinson and Allyn Harvey
Leslie Robinson

Two key state agencies that oversee oil and gas production in Colorado have an opportunity in the coming weeks to enact regulations that will have meaningful impacts on the air we breathe, the water we drink and the larger environment we share with each other and wildlife that, like us, calls Colorado home.

Garfield County is the second largest producer of natural gas in the state — so this really matters.

The Air Quality Control Commission will consider new rules to measure emissions and repair leaks of both methane, a major source of climate change, and the gases that combine to form ozone, a significant public health hazard right here in Garfield County.


Allyn Harvey

And the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has a chance to change the rules that determine how much money a company must pay in advance with a bond in order to cover the costs of plugging their wells once they stop producing oil or gas. Currently, companies are required to provide only a fraction of the amount needed to shutter a well.

Requiring fossil fuel companies to repair leaks in active wells and storage facilities and pay to plug and clean up after they’re done making money is the clear solution. The oil and gas industry is the largest source of methane emissions and the second largest source of ozone in the state of Colorado. And there are already hundreds of so-called orphan wells in Colorado that are leaking methane and other gases that need to be properly plugged and abandoned.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of push back against these common-sense rules, not only from the oil and gas industry but also from some of our local governments, including Garfield County, the towns of New Castle and Silt, and the city of Rifle, which are members in the pro-industry Western and Rural Local Government Coalition.

That’s a shame, given that the American Lung Association gave Garfield County an “F” for ozone in its annual State of the Air report for 2020, and when you consider how much of our local recreation economy relies on cold, snowy winters and sunny, clear skies in the summer.

From June 2019 through December 2020 the Garfield County commissioners spent more than $1.75 million of our county tax dollars to fight similar common-sense rules, like one the folks in Battlement Mesa successfully fought for that require more frequent inspections of wells, storage tanks and other infrastructure located within 1,000 feet of homes and communities.

We created the Garfield County Taxpayers Accountability Project because we are appalled that our elected officials and their staff are spending county dollars to block rules designed to protect schools and neighborhoods from noxious and sometimes poisonous gases coming from fossil fuel development, and the air and water and land from spills and leaks. Please take a look at

Now, Garfield County commissioners Tom Jankovsky, John Martin and Mike Samson are once again taking up the cause of the oil and gas industry. They have dispatched county Oil and Gas Liaison Kirby Wynn to hearings before the Air Quality Control Commission and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to argue for fewer oil and gas leak inspections and for less bonding to pay for cleanup. They would also like the state to limit its regulations for wells on federal lands.

The Garfield County Taxpayer Accountability Project has made an impact. The county has quit spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every month to pay out-of-town attorneys and consultants to write memos and spin the news in industry’s favor. Unfortunately, they have latched onto the efforts of Weld County, the most oil and gas-friendly government in the state, to fight the latest proposed rules.

What can you do? The Air Quality Control Commission hearings run from Dec. 14-17. Send them an email at

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission hearings are Jan. 21-22. Keep an eye on its website on how to sign up for public comment at

And put pressure on your local government officials — Garfield County commissioners, Rifle City Council members and Silt and New Castle town trustees — to quit representing industry and start representing you.

Natural gas development is an important part of our local economy, but the industry operators must be held accountable so that our communities and the environment are protected.

Leslie Robinson is a Rifle resident who has run for county commissioner and is a member of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance. Allyn Harvey is a Carbondale resident who served on the town Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2016. Together they created the Garfield County Taxpayer Accountability Project.

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