When county commissioners met this summer to ponder local control of oil and gas operations in Boulder County, residents came with signs proclaiming “I am over O&G’s $ influence.” In Weld County there were “Recall Jared Polis” T-shirts — a sartorial critique of the governor who signed the new oil and gas legislation.The audience histrionics are but a sign of the deep divide over the role of the oil and gas industry in Colorado and what local control means under Senate Bill 181 — titled the Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations Act.The law requires a host of new rules at the state level for things such as air emissions and assessing cumulative impacts of oil and gas projects, and at the same time local governments are moving ahead with their own rules.
“The next two years or year-and-a-half there will be an exhaustive amount of rulemaking at the state level and the local level,” said Dan Haley, CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, a trade group.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on July 31 adopted the first of these new rules, putting limits on the use of “forced pooling,” the ability of drillers to consolidate mineral rights even if the owners object. It did not come, however, without noisy demands from protesters to halt all permitting until the new rules are made.
On the local level, Boulder and Weld counties may be at the extremes. Boulder is looking to tighten already tough regulations while Weld is setting up its own oil and gas department to expedite permitting. But other counties and municipalities in the middle are also wrestling with the issue.
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