Don’t destroy oil, gas commission

When the full Colorado Senate takes up House Bill 1269 today or later this week, we hope there will be enough lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who recognize the extensive damage the bill would do to state regulation of the oil and gas industry and will vote to kill the bill.

If they fail to do so, it will be up to Gov. John Hickenlooper to rectify the mistake by vetoing the bill.

HB1269 is a direct attack on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and an effort to put the brakes on oil and gas drilling throughout the state. It was concocted by some Boulder County lawmakers who have suddenly realized that drilling is occurring in their communities, as well as more far-flung parts of the state.

It comes a few years after a bipartisan group of legislators approved a substantial revamping of the Oil and Gas Commission at the urging of a Democratic governor, much to the consternation of people who support the oil and gas industry.

That change led to the Oil and Gas Commission developing what were initially the strictest drilling rules in the country, and continually updating them. In short, there is no indication of a massive failure on the part of the commission to regulate the industry or to protect public health and the environment.

However, HB1269 goes much further than the reforms of five years ago. It would prohibit anybody employed by the oil and gas industry from serving on the commission.

As we noted in March, prohibiting oil and gas employees from serving would make the Oil and Gas Commission different from every other state board — from education to air quality to wildlife — where experts in those fields are encouraged to serve. Furthermore, it would be a one-sided prohibition. The bill does nothing to prevent service by employees of environmental groups that may be vehemently anti-drilling and therefore have just as strong a conflict of interest.

Additionally, the bill would significantly change the mission of the Oil and Gas Commission to eliminate any priority to promote the responsible use of the state’s energy resources.

People involved with the energy industry understandably worry that the bill could significantly impede the development of viable oil and gas deposits and mineral leases. If that occurs, it would amount to a taking of private property, they warn, yet the bill contains no provisions to pay those who own mineral rights for the taking of their property.

On top of that, HB1269 would put Colorado in conflict with federal law and a multi-state compact that was created to prevent the waste of oil and gas resources.

The Oil and Gas Commission has recently changed requirements for oil-rig setbacks from homes and other buildings, has strengthened water-monitoring rules and has taken other actions in response to public concerns. But that’s not enough for proponents of HB1269, who seem eager to halt the use of these valuable natural resources altogether.

Dump this bill down the deepest well hole that can be found.


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