Group dropping oil, gas rules lawsuit

A Colorado oil and gas trade group has decided not to continue a nearly 2-year-old legal fight with a new governor.

The Colorado Oil & Gas Association is dropping its lawsuit challenging a rewrite of the state rules applying to the industry.

COGA and the state Department of Natural Resources on Thursday jointly announced the group will withdraw the suit based on discussions it had with DNR Director Mike King. It had sought to reverse rules that were implemented by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2009 in an effort to better minimize drilling-related impacts.

Former Gov. Bill Ritter led the push for the rules revamp, taking heavy criticism from an industry that said it was costly and a major deterrent to drilling in the state. COGA representatives couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday evening, but in a news release the group voiced confidence about how the industry will be treated under new Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“The new administration clearly recognizes the valuable contribution Colorado’s oil and gas industry makes to the economy and the importance of Colorado natural gas in reducing air pollution,” COGA President and Chief Executive Officer Tisha Conoly Schuller said. “We are confident that going forward we will have a place at the table and our concerns will be fairly considered.”

King said no promises or commitments were made in exchange for COGA withdrawing the lawsuit, other than the administration will listen to all sides in making decisions.

“I think what it says … is the industry feels comfortable with Governor Hickenlooper and his perspective and commitment to work with industry as we move forward,” King said in an interview.

Hickenlooper said in the news release, “This heralds what we hope will be a new era of collaboration and predictability in the development of our energy resources. It’s important to get beyond old fights and move ahead to develop Colorado’s abundant natural gas and protect our environment at the same time.”

Mike Freeman, an attorney with Earthjustice, which advocates for conservation groups, said the end of COGA’s legal challenge is “a big victory for Colorado.”

He said the new rules were a significant achievement for Ritter and an important part of his legacy.

“I think we’re really glad to see that the challenge to that part of his legacy is apparently going to end,” he said.

Freeman believes the new rules have proven to be workable for industry.

“They’re reasonable rules that protect our water, air and wildlife,” he said.


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