Governor’s Task Force Rulemaking Update

November 24, 2015–

Thank you to everyone who responded to our urgent request on “How Has Oil and Gas Development Impacted You”. The stories (official statements) of 10 North Fork Valley residents were delivered to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), and read by Natasha Léger, CHC Interim Executive Director, at the hearing on November 16.

You can see how Natasha presented these statements with a combination of pictures so that commissioners and the audience could put a face to the statements. You can see the presentation here. Your stories made an impact on the commissioners and the audience.

The hearings: There are 72 parties to this rulemaking hearing, which has been a little overwhelming for the COGCC. There were so many participants that they had to hold the hearings off-site from the COGCC office. By comparison there were some 40 parties to the last rulemaking on setbacks. The first two days of hearings were on November 16 and 17. The focus of this rulemaking is on implementing Recommendations 17 and 20 from the Governor’s Task Force on Oil and Gas (see below for more background). The COGCC released its draft rules implementing Recommendations 17 and 20 on October 6, 2015 and revised draft rules, following stakeholder meetings, on October 23, 2015. You can see the draft rules here.

Citizen groups testimony_web

Citizens groups testimony November 16, 2015.

Citizens groups and impacted individuals appear to have outnumbered the industry. When it was time for the citizens groups testimony, the Chair of the Commission commented “there are a lot of them!”

Why this rulemaking is so important: The sacrifice zones for oil and gas drilling are shrinking as oil and gas development encroaches more and more on “populated” areas. Oil and gas development is no longer happening in the hinterland, but right smack in the middle of neighborhoods, alongside schools and playgrounds, parks, and homes. You can read the Governor’s Task Force Recommendations here.

Natasha Leger reading community statements.

Natasha Leger reading community statements.

Why and How CHC is involved: Oil and gas drilling in residential areas is not just urban issue; it’s a rural issue. While we have not been impacted to the extent of Front Range communities such as Weld and Adams County, or West Slope communities such Battlement Mesa, or Silt; the horror of what these communities are experiencing could happen here if we are not vigilant.

CHC has joined 4 other impacted community groups from across the state–Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, Weld Air and Water, Western Colorado Congress, and Windsor Neighbors for Responsible Drilling, LLC—in this rulemaking effort, which is jointly being represented by Western Environmental Law Partners.

We have been disappointed by the draft rules for three main reasons. The draft rules:

  1. Do not provide a process for siting large-scale oil and facilities AWAY from residences as required by Recommendation 17;
  2. The definition of Large Oil and Gas Facility is limited to an Urban Mitigation area and therefore excludes rural Colorado from any potential protections;
  3. The definition of Large Oil and Gas Facility has no cap on the number of wells, or lateral and vertical lines, which effectively sanctions turning residential areas, or non-industrial zones into de-facto industrial zones.

It is simply irresponsible to drill in certain areas, including next to homes, schools, playgrounds, and parks, and in watersheds, airsheds, and foodsheds. See impacted communities press release here.

What’s Next?: The third day of hearings will be on Monday, Dec. 7 to address Mitigations and Best Management Practices.

Background: On September 8, 2014, Governor John Hickenlooper signed an Executive Order that established the Oil and Gas Task Force. The Task Force was a part of a compromise that Governor Hickenlooper reached with US Congressman Jared Polis that resulted in the withdrawal of four oil and gas ballot initiatives: two reform initiatives and two industry initiatives. The Task Force was made up of 21 people, equally divided between three different groups: oil and gas industry representatives, local government and conservation community representatives, and “distinguished Coloradans” that had varied backgrounds. 55 proposals had majority support but only nine proposals passed with the required 2/3 support that the Governor required.

Two of those proposals, #17 and #20, are the subject of the upcoming COGCC rulemaking. These two proposals dealt with two main issues: 1) large scale oil and gas facilities near homes and, 2) giving local governments an increased role in oil and gas siting decisions. Governor’s Task Force Recommendations here.

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