Don’t cut industry experts from oil and gas agency

Rep. Ray Scott’s frustration with his Democratic colleagues in the state Legislature regarding bills related to the oil and gas industry is both understandable and justified.

Not only are Democrats at the state Capitol trying to boost penalties for oil and gas infractions and seeking to give local governments more authority over oil and gas development, but some want to prohibit any representatives of the oil and gas industry from serving on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. That’s the state board whose mission is to oversee and encourage oil and gas development in Colorado.

With bills like these, Scott said, the Legislature is “sending a very bad message to an already uncertain market.”

We agree.

A case in point is House Bill 1269, the measure to prohibit employees, officers or directors of oil and gas operators or service companies from serving on the Oil and Gas Commission. If the bill becomes law, it would mean the Oil and Gas Commission is different from every other major appointed board or commission that’s part of state government.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission includes members who are hunting outfitters, representatives of sportsmen’s groups or farmers and ranchers, all of whom have a vested interest in what the commission does.

There are ranchers and farmers on the Colorado Ag Commission, naturally enough, and people with backgrounds as college professors or administrators on the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission includes people who are environmental consultants working with private businesses to comply with air quality rules, as well as members of environmental groups. They all have a direct interest in what the commission does.

The point is, on all of these policy-setting groups that work with state government, we want people who have an expertise in the area on which they work and a variety of views.

The same should be true of the Oil and Gas Commission. It is ridiculous not to want some industry experts on board.

That’s not to say the industry should dominate the commission, but that hasn’t been the case for years. The board was changed once in the 1990s. In 2008, with legislation pushed by then-Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, the commission was significantly revamped to allow three members with oil and gas industry experience or employment.

Now, some Democrats in the Legislature want to eliminate even that limited representation, despite the fact there is no indication the industry representatives have undue influence on the nine-member board.

This is a mistake that would hurt the industry and the interests of Colorado. We hope Scott and sensible lawmakers of both parties are able to kill it.


COMMENTS

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Increased fines makes good sense, CO’s are some of the lowest and haven’t been updated since the 1950s.  Increasing inspectors is a good idea as well, and certainly should work in the interest of responsible companies doing their jobs with proper care.  I am unsure where a guarantee of ‘certainty’ was ever part of a Free Market system, or how having clear specific regulations decreases that.  In any case, whatever does exist in the ‘already uncertain’ market is not affected oil and gas development in Colorado, which is at record levels even under the ‘new’ rules from 2008, through which we also heard endless tales of Chicken Little industry demise.

If they are going to cut energy industry representatives from COGCC, they must also cut anyone who has any ties to environmentalist organizations. To be fair, you can’t have special interests from either side.

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