Drilling compromise in Colorado leaves zoning unsettled
DENVER – A drilling dispute between Colorado communities and the oil and gas industry over who gets to zone drilling operations remains unsettled despite a task force convened to settle the matter.In a letter to state lawmakers Wednesday, the task force said it was “neither realistic nor productive” to settle that question. Instead, the task force recommended that energy regulators do a better job keeping local governments in the loop on drilling decisions.”A more constructive approach will result from collaboration and coordination,” the task force of energy companies, local governments and environmental activists concluded. The task force was set up about a month and a half ago after several rival bills regarding energy zoning failed in the state Legislature.Advances in drilling technology have led to energy exploration in populous communities where many residents want local zoning control. The matter came to a head in recent months when two of the state’s most populous areas – Aurora and El Paso County – got sharp rebukes from Attorney General John Suthers for considering zoning rules on drilling.The Colorado Oil & Gas Commission, the state regulators, joined the energy companies in opposing local zoning. Even Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former geologist, said in his annual State of the State address that the state needed to prevent a patchwork of local drilling regulations.The task force did make some recommendations, namely that energy companies and state regulators work more closely with local authorities about how drilling is done.That recommendation largely falls along what energy companies the commission argued all along, that they’d do better to address local concerns. However, environmental activists and a local government group seemed placated by the final result.”The practical, collaborative strategies that this task force developed aren’t as exciting as conflict at the Capitol, but they are far more likely to make a positive difference across our state,” Colorado Municipal League president Diana Allen said in a statement.
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