Senate prez: Technology is outpacing energy rules
BATTLEMENT MESA — A visit to an Ursa Resources drilling operation in the residential community of Battlement Mesa Thursday underscored for state Senate President Kevin Grantham the need for regulations to be kept current with changes in the industry.
“Technology is advancing far faster than the regulations are, and we’re getting to the point where the technology is getting beyond the intent of the old regulations,” Grantham said.
He said those regulations need to be re-examined with a goal of unshackling the industry from out-of-date rules that haven’t kept up with what the industry is doing.
Grantham, R-Cañon City, visited western Colorado Thursday alongside Sen. Ray Scott, the Grand Junction Republican and Senate assistant majority leader, in a tour intended to emphasize the importance of protecting energy jobs in the region.
They also were scheduled to meet Thursday with representatives in the mining and construction industries.
Grantham said he took Thursday’s trip to learn more about Piceance Basin operations “and some of the effects that the decisions we make in Denver have on everybody over here when it comes to regulations and things that restrict some of the ability of companies to produce and hire people.”
Matt Honeycutt, operations superintendent with Ursa, said there’s no lack of challenges for the company in operating in and around the residential communities of Battlement Mesa and Parachute, as it works around housing, schools, day care facilities, the Colorado River and wildlife.
“Every direction you look, for us there’s a potential impact” from Ursa’s operations, he said.
He ran through some of the ways the company has worked to reduce those impacts, from the use of sound walls around well pads and lower-profile rigs, to the recycling of water in hydraulic fracturing operations to greatly reduce consumption, to the transportation of water by pipes rather than trucks.
Grantham said a balancing act is required to properly regulate the industry without having to shut it down. As concerns continue to arise in Colorado when it comes to issues such as drilling near homes and schools, he said it remains to be seen whether a big battle will ensue during the next legislative session over oil and gas issues.
“We’ll do what we can to protect the jobs in Mesa County and Garfield County and on the Front Range in the oil and gas industry, and there will be others who will seek to take those jobs away,” he said.
Garfield Commissioner John Martin, who joined Thursday’s Ursa site visit, thinks it’s important for state lawmakers to see local oil and gas operations so they can be better informed about how energy development can be done, its local and state economic importance, and the fact that it can be sustainable.
“It doesn’t need to be considered boom and bust. This will be an industry that can last several hundred years at a steady pace” in the region, he said.
Scott likewise cited the need to expose legislators from other regions to Piceance Basin operations and the importance of local oil and gas development from an energy-production, job and tax-revenue perspective.
“All of those things are paramount to the entire economy of the Western Slope,” he said.
With that in mind, he said he will be calling for a performance audit of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to get answers about why Texas approves drilling permits in a matter of days, far faster than is the case in Colorado. He wonders if it’s a staffing problem, or perhaps a result of the agency focusing too much on environmental issues.
“There’s something not quite right. Let’s figure it out,” he said.