Ongoing oil and gas task force proposed
A former Grand Junction lawmaker who sat on the recent state oil and gas task force says he supports a proposal to create a new committee to continue working on issues that the task force couldn’t resolve.
“I think it would be useful if we could figure out some kind of mechanism for continuing a statewide conversation,” said Bernie Buescher, responding to an idea floated by the president and chief executive officer of the group that facilitated the task force meetings.
Christine Scanlan of the Keystone Policy Center suggested Wednesday in a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper and the heads of the state Senate and House of Representatives an ongoing committee “to oversee issues and continue the effort to arrive at consensus solutions.”
“The Task Force was a start, but the constructive dialogue needs to continue,” Scanlan wrote.
Hickenlooper’s office said Thursday it had just received the letter and needs to review it, and had no immediate reaction.
Hickenlooper appointed the task force under a deal to keep several oil and gas measures off last year’s state ballot.
It reached agreement on nine recommendations for balancing land uses and reducing conflicts related to oil and gas development.
But it failed to reach the required minimum two-thirds agreement on a number of other proposals.
“The crux of the difficulty that still remains is the relationship between state and local authorities on aspects of oil and gas permitting, development and control,” Scanlan wrote.
She said much of the conflict involves “grey areas,” such as siting of facilities, where elements of oil and gas development arguably are within the authority of both local governments and the state. And she said some options for resolving these conflicts, such as lawsuits, legislation or state ballot issues, create winners and losers and would likely perpetuate ongoing battles.
She wrote that underlying much of what the task force discussed was an enthusiasm for creating opportunities for improving relationships between oil and gas companies and communities where they want to operate.
She recommends creation of a statewide entity composed of industry, local governments, landowners, agricultural interests, housing developers and the public to build on the foundation created by the task force.
Buescher, a former Colorado secretary of state who also served as a Democrat from Grand Junction in the state House of Representatives, put forward a key task force recommendation that would provide a means for local governments to be involved with energy companies as those companies identify sites for large facilities in urban locations, and provide for a mediation process when collaboration doesn’t work.
But he acknowledged the task force left some problems unsolved when it comes to impacts of high-intensity drilling and production operations.
“As a community we’re going to have to figure out, how do you deal with the folks who are in the immediate areas of those impacts? We had some discussion but we never really got to that issue,” Buescher said.
If a continuing committee is created, he’d like to see it include some members who were on the task force, so they can help build on what they started.
“It took a while to develop a relationship among the members and to develop the ability to talk to each other, and more importantly to listen to each other,” Buescher said.
But he said it might be hard to get task force members to commit to further efforts, considering how arduous and time-consuming the task force work was.
“But I see some value in continuing the conversation,” he said.