Commissioners vote to oppose new bill

Alex Zorn

After the Colorado House of Representatives last week approved a bill to require a generally greater setback from schools for oil and gas activity, the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners on Monday decided to oppose House Bill 1256.

The bill clarifies that oil and gas production facilities and wells be located at least 1,000 feet from the school property line, rather than the school building, as the current Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules state.

Proposed by Longmont Democrat Mike Foote, the bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate, where its prospects are iffy.

Garfield commissioners wanted to prepare a position statement and direction for their staff regarding the bill.

None of the commissioners thought it was necessary to overrule the COGCC.

“I think this is somewhat ambiguous and I would like to see that rule-making continue through the COGCC,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky as he made a motion to oppose the bill. “I think when you start getting into property lines you could be moving a mile away from the school.”

Likewise, Commissioner Mike Samson said COGCC director Matt Lepore was concerned that the bill would create too many conflicts with the current rules.

Commissioner John Martin agreed with Colorado Counties Inc.’s opposition to the bill.

“It takes 60 percent of the voting members of the CCI to take a position,” he said. “Sixty percent of the counties oppose this particular one because of the problems that it causes in reference to the property line. The other one is that they believe in the rules and regulations, which can be reviewed and changed. They feel that the rules and regulations through the COGCC are much more manageable than trying to change a state statute.”

If changes are to be made to oil and gas rules, those opposing the bill believe the process should be through the COGCC.

Prior to the county commissioners taking a position on the issue, community organizations such as Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Western Colorado Congress were very vocal in their support for the proposed bill.

“We support HB 1256, and this is not unusual to use the school property line for measuring setbacks,” Leslie Robinson, Grand Valley Citizens Alliance president, told commissioners. “We know that accidents are going to happen, so just having that extra setback would make a big difference with the safety of children.”

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