Curry: Oil and gas rules could face big battle
GLENWOOD SPRINGS State Rep. Kathleen Curry said review of 177 pages of new Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules could make the biggest fight of this legislative session.I think there will be an effort on the floor to amend the rules all over the place. I do anticipate a lot of discussion on this, she said during a brief phone conversation before a town hall meeting-style speaking engagement Thursday night. I think there will be a huge fight once we are in session. Its become a partisan sticking point. Curry, D-Gunnison, explained at the Glenwood Springs Community Center that the new rules the commission approved in December will go to the Legal Services Committee March 6. The committee will basically give a thumbs up or a thumbs down on each rule. Then the rules will wind their way through the state Legislature starting in the following weeks as part of a rule review bill, Curry said. The rules can’t be rewritten only accepted or rejected. The Grand Valley Citizens Alliance gathered outside in support of the rules prior to the event. They carried signs with statements like Support the regs and Save Bambi from O&G lobbyists. Former alliance president Duke Cox said, Twenty companies have already said to the COGCC, We can accept these rules and we can do business in Colorado. Some say large-scale cutbacks in energy industry activity this year in Colorado’s Piceance Basin will jeopardize jobs and further dampen the economy, in large part because of concerns about the new rules, but Cox contends the cutbacks have absolutely nothing to do with these rules. Curry said the rules havent been implemented yet. She added that the price of gas and pipeline capacity are probably the main reasons for the drilling cutbacks. The primary reason is they need to make money, and theyre not going to make it at the price of gas right now. Were a third of what we were at just in August. One man in the audience asked about the highlights and public benefits of the rules. Garfield County Commissioner Trsi Houpt, who also serves on the commission, said the rules include many different public benefits such as clean air and water regulations and setbacks from homes. Landowners will also be asked to the table for consultation on energy companies comprehensive plans and wildlife issues, she said. There is greater opportunity with these rules to bring the energy companies, the landowners and the COGCC together for discussion on how to best approach development keeping in mind the interests of protecting public health, the environment and wildlife while still making it reasonable and cost effective to be able to access the resource that is there as well. Asked about the prospects of enforcing the rules, Curry said it will in part depend on how many employees the commission is allowed to hire. Legislators are looking to fix projected state budget shortfalls of more than $600 million this fiscal year and even more the next fiscal year. A hiring freeze on most state jobs is currently in effect. Houpt said that both ongoing staff training and the way the rules are structured should mean there will be good oversight of the rules. She said anyone can contact the commission or the county oil and gas liaison with any complaints. firstname.lastname@example.org
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