Colorado is finally trying to revamp the regulation of oil and gas development for the 21st century.
And it’s long overdue. For decades, Colorado’s official charge to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was to “foster” oil and gas development. That might have made sense in the 1950s when development occurred primarily in remote oil fields and the state wanted to ensure maximum extraction of valuable oil and gas resources. But today, oil and gas is colliding with expanding residential development. And there have been serious consequences.
In La Plata County, we started experiencing this in the 1980s, as coal-bed methane extraction moved under homes and farms. On Colorado’s Front Range, companies are similarly pursuing new development within and adjacent to residential subdivisions. At the same, homebuilders are expanding into areas previously explored for oil and gas.
The state’s approach to overseeing oil and gas development is now antiquated – the 1950s-era focus on fostering oil and gas development no longer fits the current circumstances of overlapping residential and energy activities.
The good news is Colorado’s legislature is finally grappling with it.
Senate Bill 181 balances the mission of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from one of fostering the industry to one of balancing energy extraction with protecting health, safety and the environment.
The bill also gives local governments, like cities and counties, a say in the siting of oil and gas facilities. The industry’s enormous technological advances in directional drilling and horizontal drilling means that drill pads can now be more flexibly located to provide larger buffers around homes, schools, and businesses – a concern for residents and elected officials alike.
Change can be scary. The industry and its supporters allege oil and gas development will dry up if they are forced to accommodate the health and safety concerns of some local communities. Yet, in the decades we’ve been working on common sense oil and gas protections, that hasn’t happened.
SB181 evens the playing field, finally giving valuing our health, the environment and public safety along with oil and gas extraction.
This bill is currently in the Colorado House of Representatives.
Ask your representative to support this bill
You can find your representative here.