Regulators urged not to harm drilling
Mesa County officials and leaders urged a state agency on Monday to do no harm to the Western Slope’s fragile energy industry.
Mesa County Commissioner John Justman took note of Front Range opposition to techniques such as hydraulic fracturing when he urged the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to keep the Western Slope economy in mind when drafting regulations.
“Don’t allow olive branches to Boulder make it harder to drill over here,” Justman said.
Justman, state Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, a possible legislative candidate and others all warned that the western Colorado economy is fragile as they spoke to the commission, which met at Two Rivers Convention Center.
“We’re dying over here,” Realtor Dale Beede said. “We need those jobs.”
The drilling economy on the state’s eastern half can withstand more regulatory pressure than the same industry west of the Continental Divide, King said.
“More regulations will harm the West Slope disproportionately,” King said, urging the commission to include the local economy in its deliberations on new rules.
“A healthy, robust economy is a critical part of our environment,” King said.
J.J. Fletcher, a Palisade businessman who said he is considering a bid for House District 54, said Colorado’s regulatory framework works now to “keep energy companies in compliance.”
His business, Jay-Max Sales, which offers mining, drilling and industrial supplies, is off 50 percent, Fletcher said, telling the commission he supports hydraulic fracturing.
Colorado Mesa University, industry and other organizations are working to build an energy industry under the auspices of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s “bottom-up” plan for local economic development, Diane Schwenke, president of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, told the commission.
The commission needs to “send an open-for-business message to the business sector,” Schwenke said.
The commission oversees exploration and production of oil and natural gas in the state, and the Legislature added 19 new inspectors to deal with the industry.
The new hiring will break down to 11 new inspectors, bringing the agency’s inspection staff to 27. The environmental staff will be increased by three new slots, and two new engineers will be hired.
One additional person will be hired for each of the finance, permitting and hearing staffs, Commission Director Matt Lepore said.