Democrats drill down on state’s oil, gas industry

Ray Scott

DENVER — Bills directed at limiting the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing have long been expected to be introduced into the 2013 legislative session.

But Democrats have gone a bit further than Republicans expected them to with some of those bills.

Last week, Democrats introduced, and even approved, measures that deal with other aspects of the state’s oil and gas industry, including one banning anyone who works in that industry from serving on the state panel that oversees it.

Currently, three of the nine members can work for the industry, but supporters say that’s not good enough. This measure is designed to remove any semblance of a conflict of interest on the panel.

Rep. Max Tyler, D-Golden and chairman of the committee that will hear most of those measures, says he thinks it’s a bad idea to allow that kind of conflict on a panel that oversees a $32 billion industry in the state.

“We need to make sure drilling is done properly and safely,” Tyler said. “The commission should have one mission and one mission alone, and that’s protecting public health.”

A funny thing to say, says Rep. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction.

The mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is to develop an energy resource. Its own mission statement on its website at says the commission’s job is to foster the responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas natural resources.

That measure was joined by two others, both of which were approved on party-line votes in committee last week. One would dramatically increase fines for spills from $1,000 a day to $15,000 a day, and another increases the number of well inspections.

Scott said each goes too far.

“The problem

with what we’re doing with these kinds of bills is we’re sending a very bad message to an already uncertain market,” Scott said. “The uncertainty level is already incredibly high. These (industry) people are very responsible with what they do. They’ve been doing it for a very long time. We’ve got to stop treating them like a smokestack industry.”

Scott said the Front Range lawmakers who are introducing the measures don’t realize that while the state’s 
unemployment rate has gone down in their areas, it hasn’t on the Western Slope.

They may be seeing more interaction with the drilling industry because of new oil resources on the east side of the Continental Divide, but their fear and loathing of the industry isn’t universally shared on the Western Slope, Scott said.

“We are a petroleum-based economy, and statistics show that’s not going to change for a very long time,” Scott said. “We can stomp our feet and cry and moan and groan, but it’s not going anywhere. My concern is, how many times are we going to poke these (industry) guys in the chest. We have to find out what is a reasonable middle.”


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“Protecting Public Health”? Energy prices are already so high that many people have to choose between eating, medications and gas for their car / heat for their home! All these communist / socialist regulatory idiots are doing is driving prices up and up. Food prices are already too high and higher energy costs from more regulation / less development are just going to make it worse.

Ashby puts out an article with semi balance, i.e. a quote from Max Taylor and an off direction rebuttal by Ray Scott. Taylor says, “We need to make sure drilling is done properly and safely.” Notice Taylor did NOT say “stop drilling”! The central issue being industry reps on the COGCC. Scott replies with that is a funny thing to say (not reported as a direct quote by Asby) with a following litany about the mission statement of the COGCC that leaves the reader with the impression Scott had pointed out an obvious conflict.
Actually, later in the paragraphs, that mission of “responsible development” of resources is referred to and supports Taylor’s implication that COGCC is not doing this. Scott, in direct quotes, does say that legislation such as this would add “uncertainty” to the O&G business. This is probably the biggest stretch from the truth, as when requirements are clearly spelled out and enforced, the business knows exactly what it must do.  Scott just parrots old industry spin that allows them to run roughshod. Scott goes on to say, “We’ve got to stop treating them like a smokestack industry.” Well, news upon news, they are a smokestack industry as evidenced by their emissions and smogging of entire basins and their ongoing seeps and spills like Parachute and Windsor, not to mention the destruction in the Gulf of Mexico or Nigerian delta.  He also mentioned they are “responsible with what they do…. doing it for a long time.” people; however, their track record shows current technology with about a 10 year history and response (responsibility) with dubious effectiveness always concerned with their own bottom line margins and hidden in secrecy settlements.
As far as the central issue of reps on the COGCC, it got lost. But think if you had to go before a panel of judges and 1/3 were working for a company you had a beef with, do you think you would get an unbiased hearing? As far as industry people on such a commission it should be “NO WAY”! They can go before the COGCC and explain their case the same as any Joe Citizen.

Be careful what you wish for! I do agree that conflicts of interest should be disclosed and avoided when possible on governmental agencies. Having said that, the person who holds the environmental position on the COGCC gets most of his money from working for industry. Do you really want to force Rich Alward off of the COGCC?

As for the mission of the COGCC, the current mission is conflicted with the commission being charged both with fostering development and protecting the environment. Speaking strictly as a person who lives in the oil patch, I’d like us to spend more time worrying about the health of both the planet and the humans living on it. It is my opinion that the COGCC mission should be solely to protect the environment and the seat hald by CDPHE on COGCC should take their responsibility to protect the human health more seriously.

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