Energy panel member: New rules not the goal
RIFLE — While a lot of media attention is being given to what new oil and gas regulations a state task force might recommend to address conflicts over drilling in Colorado, “that’s just not the discussion we’ve been having,” task force member Bernie Buescher said.
Rather, the former secretary of state and onetime Grand Junction state lawmaker said during Thursday’s meeting in Rifle that discussions have focused on ways various interests can cooperate to resolve conflicts, and on increasing communication about approaches already being used and available to others.
The task force, created by Gov. John Hickenlooper as a compromise that kept oil and gas measures off this fall’s state ballot, is focusing on issues such as balancing state versus local control over oil and gas development, and protecting the public while that development occurs.
It finished two days of meetings in Rifle Thursday.
On Wednesday, the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, representatives from local counties and others called on the task force to consider what they’re calling the “Western Slope Way.” They say the use of local government designees on oil and gas issues, advisory and conflict-resolution organizations and other approaches taken in western Colorado have proven effective and should be tried elsewhere before more regulations are pursued.
Buescher, and to varying degrees others on the task force, also are interested in exploring approaches such as increased inspections, more use of agreements between communities and companies on drilling projects and other measures that don’t involve new regulations.
In an interview, Buescher said he’s not ruling out the possibility that new regulations might be recommended. But he added, “that’s just 90 percent not what we’re talking about.”
Buescher said he is interested in the task force clarifying what level of authority cities and counties already legally can exercise over location of industry facilities, “so long as any limitations provide a reasonable opportunity for the industry to frack product and transport product.”
But based on comments from some task force members Thursday, it appears the discussion will go beyond mere clarification of existing local authority. Will Toor, a former Boulder mayor and Boulder County commissioner, said it’s clear that one of the core issues the group will be discussing is the relationship between state and local authority and what additional local regulatory authority there should be.
Task force member Bruce Rau, who is with the Colorado Association of Home Builders, said he thinks there’s a lot of support for some modification of the state/local regulatory relationship.
“I believe some changes are likely on the list of recommendations,” he said.
But Bill Barrett Corp. executive Duane Zavadil, who was standing in for the energy developer’s president and chief executive officer at this week’s task force discussions, said he doesn’t think there’s consensus around the idea of shifting or changing authorities between state and local governments.
Task force member Dan Kelly, with Noble Energy, agreed, calling that “kind of a nonstarter for some of us in the conversation.”