Officials back guv’s challenge to oil, gas rules

More than 80 county and local elected officials, including many in western Colorado, have signed a letter supporting Gov. John Hickenlooper’s challenge of oil and gas rules against the city of Longmont.

The letter’s signers, who include all three Mesa County commissioners, agree with the governor’s concern that local governments might create a patchwork of local regulations that would make oil and gas development difficult in the state.

The letter, to be presented to Hickenlooper today, serves as something of a response to another signed last year by a roughly equal number of local and county officials who had urged Hickenlooper to drop the suit by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Longmont’s rules include limiting surface oil and gas operations and facilities to non-residential zones.

The new letter contends the Longmont rules “create a de facto ban on oil and gas production in large segments of their community. If left unchallenged, those regulations open the flood gates for other additional regulatory responses. The resulting chaos would create unclear expectations for local governments, and would discourage future investment in energy development in Colorado.”

Others from western Colorado signing the letter include all the commissioners in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, and numerous municipal council members from Parachute, Rangely, Dinosaur and Craig. Grand Junction City Council member Sam Susuras also signed it.

Parachute Mayor Judith Beasley said the town council there signed the letter because it was important to support an industry so vital to the town.

“We just don’t have that many economic alternatives here in Parachute,” she said. “If every municipality weighs in and creates their own set of conditions, it would certainly slow down development, and it’s pretty darn slow anyway.”

Oil and gas drilling activity in Garfield County is the lowest in about a decade, due to low natural gas prices.

The previous letter criticizing the lawsuit against Longmont was signed by the entire town boards of Carbondale and Crested Butte, and all county commissioners in Summit, Grand, Park and Boulder counties, among other officials. It contended local jurisdictions must be allowed to tailor rules beyond minimum state standards to respond to local concerns.

In November, Longmont residents voted to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city. The practice is essential to most oil and gas development in Colorado. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association has sued to challenge that ban.

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