Oil, gas backers try to halt regulatory checkerboard
Mesa County commissioners were some of the earliest and strongest supporters of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s recent legal action against the city of Longmont to keep oil and gas drilling rules solely under state regulatory authority.
As it turns out, they have some company on their side of the argument.
“Developing a checkerboard approach to the management of (oil and gas) development across Colorado is both too complex for the industry and dramatically escalates the cost of development and production in our state,” said Rangely Town Manager Peter Brixius, in describing the town’s position, in part drafted in cooperation with Rio Blanco County.
The issue of individual municipalities creating their own oil and gas rules was fanned when Longmont approved rulemaking in July that included setback rules, testing requirements and a hydraulic fracturing ban. That prompted Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to press legal action, arguing the state’s sole regulatory authority is the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
And on Election Day, Longmont voters solidly passed a fracking ban within city limits.
“The COGCC is already addressing setback rules which should help Longmont deal with some of their concerns,” Brixius wrote in an e-mail.
One of the ways he said communities could have input like rulemaking is via memorandums of understanding, which is the direction Elbert County is going.
Elbert County Commissioner Kurt Schlegel said they are close to finalizing a specific memorandum process, instead of going down the road Longmont did in creating its own rules and regulations.
“It should make it a lot easier for property owners to exploit their mineral rights and also make it easier for the developers or the producers to go through the permitting process, while still giving us the flexibility to negotiate,” Schlegel said.
He called the Longmont situation “problematic,” saying, “We can’t have 64 different sets of rules and regulations, because it’s an infringement on people’s personal property rights.”
Nearby Douglas County was an early adopter of a similar strong stance, supporting the suit by Hickenlooper and Suthers and advancing the ability of communities to have input via memorandums of understanding. Like Mesa County, Douglas’s county commissioners also sent a unanimous letter of support in October.
“Colorado cannot have a quilt of hundreds of different sets of oil and gas regulations if the state is genuinely committed to a thriving oil and gas sector,” Douglas’s letter states.
“Colorado deserves a comprehensive, common-sense framework of regulating oil and gas development that protects our environment and reflects best practices, not a mishmash of ill-conceived oil and gas prohibitions that would adversely affect jobs and sensible energy production,” the board said.