Energy is gone from gas-industry lawsuit

Leaders of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association offered praise for Gov. John Hickenlooper Thursday when they announced they were ending a 2-year-old lawsuit over the state’s new oil and gas regulations.

Good for them. Their assessment of the new governor and his team certainly appears correct. The Daily Sentinel has already lauded Hickenlooper on several occasions for recognizing the need to develop the state’s abundant natural gas reserves.

But COGA’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit can also be viewed as a victory for former Gov. Bill Ritter.

It was Ritter, after all, who stumped on the campaign trail for tough new regulations to ensure wildlife, water, public health and landowners’ rights were protected while allowing the state’s gas and oil resources to be developed.

It was his administration that pushed for new legislation regarding oil and gas development, and that appointed new members to an expanded Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission once that legislation had passed. And it was his team that assisted the commission as it developed the new rules that, initially at least, were so despised by many in the industry.

Some members of that Ritter team are still working with the Hickenlooper administration, notably Mike King, now the director of the Department of Natural Resources.

Ritter had the unfortunate timing to see the new rules approaching completion just as the economy and new gas discoveries in other parts of the country were causing the bottom to fall out of the natural gas market.

Many in the industry blamed Ritter and the new regulations for the downturn in Colorado’s natural gas industry. Most later acknowledged that the new rules only played a small part in that downturn, and that they could work within the framework of those rules to continue to obtain drilling permits.

Additionally, the Oil and Gas Commission and the Department of Natural Resources have worked to make improvements to the new rules. For instance, they have speeded up the review process for drilling permits, a process that drilling companies originally claimed was so lengthy that it might bring drilling to a halt.

Those changes, combined with a new, more industry-friendly administration, drained the energy out of COGA’s lawsuit.

Perhaps, given the antagonism that existed between Ritter and the oil and gas industry, the dismissal of the lawsuit was next to impossible as long as he was governor.

We’re pleased a new spirit of cooperation exists between the industry and the Hickenlooper administration. We sincerely hope it continues because the industry is so important to this state and western Colorado in particular.

But we’re also happy the lawsuit is being dropped, and the important environmental and health protections established under Gov. Ritter will remain in place.


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