Lawmakers consider change to oil and gas rules |

Lawmakers consider change to oil and gas rules

Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” State lawmakers are considering another change to proposed new oil and gas regulations aimed at protecting wildlife.

The proposed rules allow wildlife officials to recommend restrictions on drilling to protect wildlife including deer, elk and sage grouse. But opponents fear those restrictions could violate private property rights and be used to shut down drilling.

Rep. Cory Gardner has proposed a measure (House Bill 1255) that would require landowners’ consent for any restrictions the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission requires. Energy companies also wouldn’t have to consult with the Division of Wildlife on whether any restrictions are needed.

The House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee took testimony on the bill Tuesday but delayed a vote until Wednesday so Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, who was absent, would be able to weigh in.

Harold Shaeffer, a rancher from Rifle, said gas wells dot his property and the only thing that disturbs the elk and deer there are gunshots. He said he didn’t want wildlife officials dictating how his property could be developed.

“Our minerals are one of the most valuable resources that we farmers and ranchers have,” Shaeffer told the panel.

The oil and gas commission’s acting director, Dave Neslin, opposes the bill and said commission can’t force landowners to accept any restrictions anyway. If landowners object to restrictions to protect wildlife, Neslin said operators can be asked to instead improve habitat elsewhere.

Two other bills dealing with the rules have been killed in legislative committees this session. One would have delayed implementation of the rules for a year. The other would have barred any new rules that would curtail production from existing wells.

The new rules have been endorsed by the oil and gas commission but must be approved by the Legislature to take effect this year.

Gardner’s bill would change one of the statutes passed two years ago that directed the oil and gas commission to come up with the rules. If it passes, the commission would have to scrap its wildlife rules and draft new ones.

His bill is endorsed by the mayor of Trinidad, Joe Reorda, Progressive 15, a group representing 15 northeastern Colorado counties, and Club 20, which represents western Colorado interests.

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