Democratic lawmakers, officials from oil and gas- dependent areas of Colorado clash on first day of rulemaking |

Democratic lawmakers, officials from oil and gas- dependent areas of Colorado clash on first day of rulemaking

State legislators and county commissioners butted heads over the role of local governments in approving drilling locations on the first day of a six-week process

Mark Jaffe / Colorado Sun
Equipment from a stick pipe drilling rig is transferred in 2017 from Shell Oil Company's Harper Hill location.
Craig Press File

The legislators who wrote a law overhauling the state’s oil and gas rules clashed with Western Slope local officials who will have to deal with the changes at a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation hearing Monday.

The hearing, held on Zoom, was the first day of a six-week review of proposed rules to reorient the commission’s mission from promoting oil and gas development to protecting public health, safety and welfare, and the environment.

The new rules would also redefine the role of local governments in the process of siting and approving oil and gas operations, and that’s where legislators and county commissioners butted heads.

The position of more than half a dozen Western Colorado officials – during the public comment part of the hearing – was that the legislation mandating the regulatory overhaul, Senate Bill 181, either gives local government primacy on oil and gas siting or creates a situation where local decisions are derailed by the state.

The COGCC second-guessing local decisions would “make local hearings meaningless” and “diminish citizen input,” Rangely Town Manager Lisa Piering told the commission.

Senate Majority Steve Fenberg and House Speaker KC Becker, co-sponsors of Senate Bill 181, and both Boulder County Democrats, took issue with the analysis. “Both the COGCC and local governments have the ability to regulate oil and gas,” Becker said.

“Local government regulations can only be stricter than state,” she said. The law “does not grant them exclusive authority to regulate surface impacts.”

Ray Beck, a Moffat County commissioner, said “it does us no good to be able to adopt more restrictive rules because the state’s floor is so restrictive.”

At issue is language in the bill that says nothing in one section of the law creating COGCC authority alters, impairs or negates the authority of local governments to regulate oil and gas operations.

Fenberg told the commission that the citation disregards the context of the paragraph and removes part of the sentence that modifies the position of local government.

“The bill was meant to create stricter regulations,” Fenberg said. “You can disagree with the legislation … you can’t change its intent.”

To read the rest of the Colorado Sun article, click here.

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