Guv defends suit over oil, gas rules
Responding to local government officials, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has defended a lawsuit the state is pursuing against Longmont over that city’s oil and gas rules, saying the legal action “was a last — and not a first — resort for our administration.”
“This decision was only made after attempts to resolve the State’s concerns were unsuccessful,” Hickenlooper wrote Wednesday to county and local elected officials who signed a letter last week asking him to drop the suit.
That letter was signed by 21 county commissioners from 10 counties in Colorado, and by 60 mayors and city council members from 17 communities, including the entire boards of Carbondale, Crested Butte, Lyons, Westminster and Bennett.
Many Carbondale-area residents are concerned about the possibility of drilling in the national forest west of town.
The lawsuit by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission contends Longmont’s rules overstep its bounds and extend into areas of state authority.
The rules include limiting surface oil and gas operations and facilities to non-residential zones.
The local officials say local jurisdictions must be allowed to adopt rules that go beyond state standards to address local concerns and conditions, and that this fits with their existing authorities to regulate industrial and development activities.
Hickenlooper wrote that the state sued because of Longmont’s passage of rules “that regulate the technical aspects of oil and gas activities that are solely under the purview of the COGCC.”
“... While many local jurisdictions are grappling with oil and gas regulations for the first time, the COGCC administers a comprehensive set of rules that embody years of experience and subject matter expertise, and which are widely regarded as among the most protective in the nation,” Hickenlooper wrote.
Hickenlooper instead wrote in support of the use of local government designees, who can do things such as ask oil and gas commission staff to impose site-specific conditions of approval on a permit, and if turned down can demand a hearing by the commission.
He said the state also encourages operational agreements, such as those Longmont and Erie have reached with oil and gas companies, that can be enforced by the state.
On Thursday, members of Verde Colorado, a partnership with Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and Colorado Conservation Voters Education Fund, gave Hickenlooper a petition with 14,500 signatures from Adams and Pueblo county voters who voiced concern about the need to protect water from drilling.