Colorado oil and gas industry, government leaders gather for energy symposium
Colorado oil and natural gas industry representatives along with government officials from across the state gathered at Grand River Health on Wednesday to discuss what changes may be coming to an industry that remains one of the largest job creators for Garfield County.
While a variety of topics was and will be discussed during the two-day event, after being signed into law by the governor on Tuesday, few topics were on the minds of the people in the room more than Senate Bill 181.
The new law is expected to change how the industry is regulated locally and throughout the state.
Among the first presentations of the symposium was Colorado Legislative Services’ Jim Cole, who looked at how the bill may impact the people in the room.
During his presentation, he polled the audience to see what their background was in. Half of the 260 people in attendance said they were in the industry, while the half said they represented local governments.
Garfield County oil and gas liaison Kirby Wynn said there were 55 local governments represented at the conference this year.
During the presentation, Cole said communication for locals in the industry is going to be more critical than ever. He also suggested everyone take a deep breath when it comes to the new regulatory provisions, and to learn the new extent of its authority.
He added that for the government officials and county commissioners in attendance, which included representatives from Garfield and Mesa counties, who openly expressed concerns about the bill’s impact, “you don’t have to walk on the plank of regulation.”
Cole said a number of things still have to play out as far as the bill is concerned, and suggested that those most concerned should “aggressively participate in the state conversations.”
Concerns from local government officials were voiced throughout Cole’s presentation.
“I watched the governor sign the bill,” Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said. “‘The war on oil and gas is over in Colorado,” he said. “Very disturbing that type of attitude was taken by the state.”
As the bill gives more power to local governments and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to regulate the industry, it remains to be seen exactly what that will look like for Garfield County.
Another topic during the first day of the symposium was the Jordan Cove Energy and Pacific Connect Gas Pipeline Project and how the proposal that could provide a port for the region’s natural gas has progressed since last year’s symposium.
Michael Hinrichs, who said he’s been working on the project for seven years, updated those in attendance on where the project stands today.
While the project is still seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, expected by Nov. 29, Hinrichs asked those in the room to voice their support for Jordan Cove by continuing to send letters supporting the project publicly.
In January, the Garfield County commissioners reiterated in a letter to federal officials their support for the project.
The commissioners’ letter stated that Garfield County could use the proposed Jordan Cove facility and pipeline to “positively impact energy geopolitics and improve its national energy security.”
As far as the FERC approval goes, Hinrichs sounded cautiously optimistic.
“I am confident in our applications this time around,” he said. “The comments that came through during the last permitting cycle, we are now anticipating.”
When asked his elevator pitch for the project, Hinrichs said Jordan Cove presents the opportunity to market Colorado gas around the world.
“The more voices the merrier, and to keep that consistent would be great,” he added.
The symposium continues Thursday, including a keynote address from Randall Hyer, deputy director of the Center for Risk Communication and principal of CrisisCommunication.net, speaking about tools for local governments to address oil and gas risk perceptions.
Also, Nathan Perry, associate professor of economics at Colorado Mesa University, will talk about the economic contribution of the oil and gas industry in northwestern Colorado’s Piceance Basin.
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Colorado has been hit with a substantial spike in COVID-19 cases, with one in 41 residents believed to be contagious. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, warned during a virtual news conference that Colorado is not alone in seeing a spike in cases and pleaded with people not to travel or gather in large groups.