Panel gets earful on bill to change oil, gas board
DENVER — Dozens of people testified Wednesday on a Grand Junction lawmaker’s measure that would make the state panel that oversees oil and gas production more industry friendly.
Because there was so much testimony, the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee ran out of time to vote on Rep. Ray Scott’s bill, which would add two more industry experts to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
The nine-member panel has three industry experts, but Scott said three is not enough.
The Republican said a change is needed to bring balance back to the panel. Initially, his bill would have returned the commission to how it existed before 2007, when the panel’s seven members included five industry experts.
“This bill was brought to me not by the major players in the industry,” Scott said. “This bill spawned itself from the Western Slope because we are taking a major hit on the oil and gas industry.”
The committee is expected to continue hearing testimony and vote on the bill Monday.
Several Republicans on the committee peppered opponents of HB1223 with questions about whether the commission’s makeup needs to change because of regulations that the lawmakers said resulted in a loss of oil and gas production in the state and high unemployment as a result.
But opponents said there are no facts supporting that notion, saying evidence actually points to the contrary.
“I have heard from commissioners and county assessors that the reason revenues have gone down and unemployment has occurred in the counties was because of the decrease in natural gas prices, as well as a global recession,” said Andy Karsian, legislative coordinator for Colorado Counties Inc., a lobbying group that represents the state’s 64 counties. “On the local level, I have not heard that the regulations have slowed anything down.”
Other witnesses said well permits increased in the past year, but that jobs and production have not returned because drillers see little point in using them while natural gas prices remain low.
Jim Cole, a lobbyist for the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, said it’s important to have more industry experts on the panel because of the highly technical nature of issues it considers.
“With the (2007) restructuring of the commission, our biggest concern always was a loss of the expertise about the down-hole rules, which is what they mostly deal with,” he said.