Legal opinion gives Colorado oil and gas rules green light
DENVER Legislative legal advisers have given the green light to the majority of about 100 rules drafted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, rejecting only three proposed rules, including one requiring consultation on wildlife issues.According to a legal opinion prepared for legislative leaders who will reveiw and decide on the rules on March 6, the commission has “broad general authority” to administer the Oil and gas Conservation Act and with three exceptions the rules are OK.Lawyers for the legislature recommended lawmakers or the commission reject a rule that would exempt oil and gas operators from being charged with a misdemeanor for falsifying compliance checklists, saying the commission doesn’t have the authority to grant an exemption. They also say the recommended rules fail to require that records be maintained at designated libraries.The only major change was a rule that requires oil and gas operators to consult with the Division of Wildlife on minimizing adverse impacts to wildlife resources. Lawyers said state put the duty to consult on the Division of Wildlife, not operators, but the state disagreed, saying the ruling still requires operators to consult with the Division of Wildlife in a separate rule that was upheld.Dave Neslin, the oil and gas commission’s acting director, said legal advisers upheld a rule that made it clear the Division of Wildlife still must consult with the operator, the surface owner and the commission. The rejected rule said an operator must consult with the commission, the surface owner and the Colorado Division of Wildlife.”The only difference with the other rule is the order in which they are to consult,” Neslin said.Sen. Jim Isgar, a Democrat from Hesperus who said the wildlife rule compromises property rights, said the legal opinion “clearly shows the intent of state law was that the Division of Wildlife provide input to the commission, not that operators had to consult with the Division of Wildlife.”Industry officials sided with Isgar.”This legal directive confirms what we have said all along the onus to consult with the Division of Wildlife appropriately falls on the government, not the private sector,” said Meg Collins, president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said the fact three rules were legally questionable was significant.”We need to take a close look at all of the rules where we know the governor overstepped his authority,” McNulty said.
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