Regarding Our Oil and Gas RulesRegarding Our Oil and Gas Rules
by Hilary White, Director, and Mary Brooke Sunderland, Mining Coordinator, Sheep Mountain Alliance
Mar 04, 2009 | 1222 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GUEST COMMENTARY

Colorado has the opportunity to lead the way by implementing safer more effective regulations for oil and gas development while not impacting the industry’s ability to drill responsibly. Sheep Mountain Alliance along with our conservation partners is working hard to ensure that these new regulations are enacted by the Colorado State Legislature. We need your help.

How we got here. In 2007 the State Legislature passed two bills directing the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission (COGCC) to revise the existing rules to address environmental and wildlife conservation as well as human safety. In essence, the bills re-defined the purpose of the COGCC: To develop oil and gas while protecting public health, wildlife and the environment.

The reformed Commission spent 18 months collaborating with both public and industry before re-writing the rules, which were adopted unanimously. The Commission worked tirelessly to incorporate all viewpoints into the rule making process, thereby finding fair compromises, with sensible safeguards to protect public health and the environment.

While many of us in the conservation community feel that even stronger protections are warranted, we applaud the COGCC’s effort to compromise while following the direction of the legislation.

Colorado’s legislature must now pass the revised rules into law before they can be implemented. The hearing is scheduled for March 6, 2009. Several failed attempts have been made by opposing lawmakers to weaken or delay the rules, including one from our own State Senator Isgar, who feels that the right of mineral owners should take precedence over surface owner rights.

Representatives from several oil and gas operators in the state have made it clear that the economy, not the rules, which are not even in place, are responsible for the recent decline in the industry. Nevertheless many industry reps continue to blame the rules for the recent decline in jobs in Colorado.

According to State Representative Kathleen Curry, “The rules strike an important balance that will protect our public health, wildlife and environment while encouraging responsible industry growth.”

Here is what you can do. As mentioned, our own Senator Isgar has stated his opposition to the rules. He recently claimed that too much power is given to the surface landowner, who, he says, can prohibit drilling when wildlife is threatened. But the rules state that only under extremely rare circumstances will a drilling operator be denied a permit because of wildlife protections. The rules also state that even if the COGCC director withholds approval, the amended rules allow the operator to obtain a prompt hearing to ask for an emergency order rescinding the director’s decision.

Colorado has some of the largest oil and gas reserves in the nation. When time and technology are more conducive we will once again to see substantial resource development across the western slope including San Miguel County. Colorado also has incredibly valuable wildlife and scenic resources as well as our outdoor recreation industry that will all suffer if strong protections are not in place. Please contact Senator Jim Isgar by calling 303-866-4884 or emailing isgarsenate@frontier.net and let him know that the oil and gas rules are our best possible safeguard for public health, environmental and wildlife protection.

Or go to the SMA website at www.sheepmountainalliance.org and look under the COGCC Oil and Gas regulations to take action.

We made a difference in the recent oil and gas lease sale withdraw and with enough voices we can make a difference in this too.
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