Legislators speak up on oil, gas rules | AspenTimes.com

Legislators speak up on oil, gas rules

Phillip Yates
Garfield County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION ” Two state legislators indicated to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission members that they should tread carefully as they move forward in approving new rules for the state’s oil and gas industry.

Sen. Josh Penry (R-Grand Junction) said one step that hasn’t been mentioned in the commission’s current rule-making process for the energy industry is that any regulations approved by the commission must be reviewed by the Colorado Legislature.

“Be certain that the general assembly could rewrite [them] on your behalf,” Penry said.

Rep. Bernie Buescher (D-Grand Junction) encouraged the commission to take as much time as it can to complete the new rules and make “sure they are right.” But he added that the commission should not expect the Legislature to “rubber-stamp” its new rules.

Legislators could introduce legislation to alter rules the commission finally approves.

Buescher and Penry made their comments during a public hearing in Grand Junction on Tuesday. The hearing, which sought to gain public comment about the agency’s proposed rules, drew some 1,200 to 2,000 people, with a vast majority of the speakers sounding off against the agency’s draft rules for the state’s oil and gas industry.

The commission is drafting those rules, which the agency released in late April, because of legislation passed last year. Commissioners are expected to approve the rules by Aug. 12.

However, several critics have charged that the agency has gone beyond the legislative intent behind the new rules and have complained about the compressed timeline the agency has in approving the new rules.

Rep. Kathleen Curry (D-Gunnison), who represents Aspen and Pitkin County and some of Garfield County, also addressed the oil and gas commissioners during the public hearing on Tuesday. She told the them that she will read the final rules and draft rules, along with the input the commission is receiving, to make up my “own mind to make sure certain segments of the rules are in line with what the Legislature is thinking.”

She added later that the commission “should take their time” in approving the proposed rules.

In reaction to some of the legislators’ comments, several commissioners said they are working to complete a set of draft rules that will gain the approval of state officials, residents and legislators.

“I am hoping that we can come up with a product that people see as fair and don’t see a need to challenge it,” said commission member Tresi Houpt, who is also a Garfield County commissioner.

Commissioner Mark Cutright, who works in the oil and gas industry, said he and the other commissioners are going to make a decision they think is best. But if legislators choose to override them, “then so be it,” he said.

Commissioner Tom Compton, a rancher from Hesperus, said it was his intention to come up with the best rules possible, and that the prospect of legislators altering or fixing any of the rules the commission might draft didn’t weigh on his mind as they move forward in finalizing the proposed rules.

Compton said he currently is reviewing 6,000 to 8,000 pages of testimony connected to the rule-making process and that he is currently half-way through it.