Colorado lawmakers call oil, gas rules ‘unacceptable’
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Republican and Democratic lawmakers sent Gov. Bill Ritter a strongly worded letter on Tuesday saying that proposed regulations for oil and gas production are “unacceptable” and would cripple the industry, which brings in $23 billion a year and employs 70,000 people in Colorado.
“We are gravely concerned that the draft rules will have a punitive impact on the industry at a time when already high energy prices are pinching Colorado’s working families like never before. As written, the draft rules are unacceptable,” said the letter, signed by nine Republicans and two Democrats from across the state.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter.
One of the signers, state Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) said Ritter went beyond what lawmakers intended when he implemented two bills passed last year to tighten industry regulation.
One measure required more people from outside the oil and gas business to regulate the industry. The other required energy companies to use the best available technology to reduce the impact of exploration and drilling on wildlife and their habitat.
Lawmakers said the rules proposed by Ritter create new and unnecessary bureaucracy while opening the door to unprecedented legal challenges.
State officials are scheduled to meet with lawmakers Wednesday to discuss the issue. A spokesman for the governor had no immediate comment.
Also signing the letter were Republican Reps. Josh Penry (Fruita), Jerry Sonnenberg (Sterling), Rob Witwer (Genesee), Frank McNulty (Highlands Ranch) and Steve King (Grand Junction); Democratic Rep. Wes McKinley (Walsh); GOP Sens. Greg Brophy (Wray), Ted Harvey (Highlands Ranch) and Jack Taylor (Steamboat Springs); and Democratic Sen. Jim Isgar (Hesperus).
Rep. Kathleen Curry (D-Gunnison), said she refused to sign the letter because she believes that the industry and regulators need to keep talking. She said she believes that regulators have gone beyond legislative intent and the draft rules need to be changed.
Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert said the rules were designed to protect western Colorado’s quality of life.
He said the region has been through previous booms and busts, and it will need wildlife, clean air and water to sustain hunting, fishing and tourism once the current energy boom is over.
“As soon as the natural gas is depleted, [it] will be gone,” Lambert said.
Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) said the rules could destroy the industry on the Eastern Plains because it’s harder to extract natural gas there and takes longer. He said the rules will add 20 percent to the cost of doing business.
“A 20 percent increase in the cost of business shuts us down,” he said.
According to the 2007 Fraser Institute Global Petroleum Survey, an independent, nonprofit organization that tracks business regulation, Colorado is near the bottom of the list of states and countries with tough oil and gas regulations.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, which represents the industry, opposes the draft rules, saying the interagency process did not include industry expertise and did not take into account business realities. They said the draft rules could result in months of delay and regulatory uncertainty.
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