Proposed change in oil, gas panel moves through House committee

The state panel that oversees oil and gas production would have a majority of industry representation under a bill that won approval in a House committee Monday.

Rep. Ray Scott said he introduced the proposed change because the current nine-member panel of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission includes only three representatives of the oil and gas industry.

“It speaks to a problem that must be there,” the Grand Junction Republican told the GOP-controlled House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee. “Are we 100 percent sure exactly what the problems are? We have to be prepared for an energy future that’s going to look a whole lot different. It is essential that we have the right people to do the right job. Right now, that is just not the case.”

Scott said state government should be more business friendly, and that the commission’s new rules last year that imposed stricter guidelines to mitigate surface impacts from drilling has driven business out of state.

Initially, Scott’s bill would have returned the panel to the way it was before 2007, when it had five oil and gas experts and two non-industry representatives.

Scott had planned to add two industry experts to make it an 11-member panel, but Republicans decided to remove the two Cabinet members on it: Mike King, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, and Chris Urbina, head of the Department of Public Health and Environment.

The bill, which heads to the House Appropriations Committee, passed on a 6–5 party-line vote.

Opponents said the Legislature got it right when it changed the commission to include only three industry experts, saying land-use and environmental concerns deserved a greater voice.

“Four years ago, the General Assembly took action because the COGCC was out of balance and not adequately addressing the impacts of oil and gas drilling on Colorado’s communities, water supplies and wildlife,” said Elsie Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

“This bill would take our state backwards, reversing our progress in ensuring balanced energy development in Colorado.”

Peter Mueller, who was chairman of the commission before it was altered, said concerns of the three industry experts are drowned out by the other members, and the new makeup has caused numerous experienced staff workers for the commission to quit or retire.

Andy White, legislative liaison for the panel, however, said commissioners get along just fine. He said about 93 percent of the commission’s votes have been unanimous.


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