Oil and Gas Task Force Moves Along Nine Proposals to Governor

In the end, the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force – established to reduce conflicts in Colorado between the public and the oil and gas industry – mustered the required two-thirds vote on only nine of more than 50 proposals that they debated.

The task force will formally submit the nine recommendations to Gov. John Hickenlooper today (Feb. 27).

One of the nine measures attempts to address the task force’s biggest charge: Finding compromise on whether local governments should be given more say when drilling is proposed near residential and urban areas, especially with larger multi-well operations.

“What we heard from the public is that the real issues are in the urban mitigation areas,” said Brad Holly, a task force member and VP of operations at Anadarko Petroleum.  That accounts for “80 percent of the activity in the state. People are very happy with how that is progressing.”

The recommendation to tackle the urban-industry conflict directs the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to begin a rule-making process. It would allow state regulators to locate facilities away from residential areas when possible, and when not, regulators would require companies limit the scale and intensity of their operations.

Holly called the recommendation and the entire process an absolute success.

But not all task force members felt that way.

“Is it a failure? Probably,” said attorney Matthew Sura, who represents landowners and local governments in their disputes with the oil and gas industry.

“On one issue I guess we kicked the can down the road and said we’re gonna do some rule making … on the other, on local government authority, we didn’t deal with it at all,” Sura said.

Hickenlooper, meanwhile, released a statement saying the task force made undeniable progress. “We have not rested in addressing the tough issues that come with balancing quality of life with an important and thriving industry,” he said.

The task force originated as part of a compromise to avoid a series of fracking measures on the November 2014 ballot.

But if part of the intent was to stop those efforts in the future, Sam Schabacker with Food and Water Watch had news for them.

“We are very happy today to announce the launch of Coloradans Against Fracking, a new statewide coalition dedicated to banning this dangerous industrial process in our great state,” Schabacker announced at a rally outside the task force’s final meeting.

Longmont resident and retired nurse Karen Dike said at the rally that she wants a statewide ban, period.

“Unless we get something through the legislature that stops this attack on our citizens, then we will go to the ballot initiative,” she said.

The anti-fracking group filed into the task force meeting armed with reports that they said showed the harmful health effects of oil and gas drilling. The reports were taken by task force organizers, but protestors were told the time for public comment had passed.

Colorado Oil and Gas Association President Tisha Schuller was unimpressed.

“If you want to ban something that we all use, that’s a point of view but it’s not a meaningful contribution to the conversation,” Schuller said.

Some of the other recommendations passed by the task force include adding staff to the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, reducing truck traffic for oil and gas activities, and keeping in place methane regulations set to expire.

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