Ritter: response to new oil, gas rules disappointing | AspenTimes.com

Ritter: response to new oil, gas rules disappointing

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Gov. Bill Ritter said he’s disappointed by the oil and gas industry’s campaign assailing proposed new regulations as “job-killing” because the goal is to balance energy development with other important Colorado resources.

Ritter, in an interview with The Associated Press Wednesday, said he believes the industry “can absolutely thrive” in Colorado.

“Oil is at $140-plus a barrel,” Ritter said.

Natural gas prices have increased several times over, he added.

The proposed overhaul of Colorado’s oil and gas regulations amid a natural gas boom is intended to allow the industry to continue to flourish while looking out for the state’s wildlife, air, water and communities, Ritter said.

“We really have to keep striving for this balance,” Ritter said. “We should not expect that Colorado would somehow bail us out of an energy crisis, for lack of a better word, on the backs of the Colorado mountains or trout streams or elk and deer herds.”

A record 6,368 drilling permits were issued last year ” about six times the total in 1999 ” and more are expected this year.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the main regulatory body, is expected to vote in August on rules implementing laws requiring that the environment, wildlife and public health and safety be given more consideration when approving development.

Before hearings last month on the rules, two trade groups launched an ad campaign calling the proposals “a looming threat to Colorado’s economy” that would threaten thousands of jobs and shut down drilling in some areas for three months every year because of wildlife concerns.

“I’m very disappointed in the industry,” Ritter said. “We’re in the middle of a serious, collaborative process that involved decision-making by this commission and that commission is working very hard to hear the voice of industry.”

Ritter said the process, which began in January with the release of preliminary rules, has been one of the most open and public that he can remember. He said he doesn’t believe everyone in the industry, including some chief executives, agrees with the message from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the Colorado Petroleum Association, the groups behind the radio and newspaper ads.

“I listened to the people of this state as I campaigned, and I don’t want to see a single job lost as a result of the regulatory practices, the regulatory scheme that is ultimately decided upon,” said Ritter, who took office in January 2007.

Meg Collins, president of the oil and gas association, said the industry still has serious concerns about the rule-making process. She said representatives from the industry and other interest groups who attended meetings earlier this year were working from “concepts and assumptions” rather than solid proposals.

“We did not feel our input was significantly reflected in the draft rules put out Mach 31,” Collins said.

She also defended the ads targeting the proposed rules.

“One of the reasons we decided to go forward with the ad campaign was to elevate the issue and broaden the base of folks being informed,” Collins said. “I’m sorry the governor’s disappointed. Frankly, we’re disappointed, too.”

Critics, including state officials, dispute the ads’ claim that proposed wildlife protections will shut down drilling for 90 days during mating and birthing seasons. They say companies could avoid seasonal restrictions by drafting comprehensive plans that include wildlife protections, drilling fewer wells or consulting with state wildlife experts.

Critics also question the roughly 71,000 jobs claimed by the oil and gas industry in the ads. The trade groups base the number on a 2006 state-funded study, but economists with the state and environmental groups say the figure is likely much lower when loosely related jobs aren’t counted.

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