Letter: COGCC: Tool of oil and gas
Last month, I attended the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Committee meeting in Rifle with the COGCC and Western Slope governments. The COGCC has made 20 new recommendations, and at this meeting, numbers 17 and 20 were the topic of discussion. Seventeen is a process plan for local government to interact with industry; 20 proposes how oil and gas drilling operators will register with local governments regarding their plans.
The meeting felt like a dispensing of oil and gas propaganda, a classic narrowing of choices; all disagreed-upon choices, leading to mediation, and all mediation resulting in a decision to be rendered by the governor’s (illegally?) appointed board.
Please look at the appointees of the COGCC and understand how many are petroleum engineers and industry sympathizers. One can question citizens’ representation on this board and the fairness of its decisions.
Recommendation 20 proposes to interject its definitions for drilling plans into a county or municipality’s comprehensive plan. “How should a “large-scale oil and gas facility be defined?” How indeed? Really it just informs the planning entity of the changes coming its way. So considerate.
Rick Aluise, mayor of Silt, pointed out that comprehensive plans are not binding. Nothing is binding in the face of mineral rights. Aluise got a chuckle when he allowed as how he would throw Silt’s comprehensive plan out the window if a Cabela’s wanted to build in Silt in a noncomplying situation. His eager suggestion of acquiescence, alluding to the actual conversation about drilling within town limits, was offensively off base. To compare the relatively benign presence of retail, to a smelly, dangerous, intensely industrial and unhealthy drill rig was a conversational bait and switch.
Only Katrina Byars of Carbondale spoke in strong defense of her citizens’ comprehensive plan.
The cheap and easy drilling has been done. More and more, people and communities will be told to allow this heavy industrial process into their neighborhoods and watersheds.
The meeting would not have been complete without the mention of the mineral owners’ absolute right to make their money. This is where it always ends, every time; with an economic argument that will not be overcome or even tempered to consider issues of health; deaths of workers; well neighbors’ loss of property value and quality of life; and last but not least, the death of the planet. These human issues, 120-degree heat, forest fires and the like, can be damned and ignored. Industry and its cheerleaders must live on a different earth. Not all things that are legal should be legal.
The COGCC is merely an oil and gas industry diversion tactic. An amendment to our state constitution giving communities their rights would be a huge step toward actually acknowledging the reality of our needs.
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