Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Local governments from Aspen to Rifle are opposing an effort in the state Legislature to remake the board of directors of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees the state’s oil and gas industry.
The government of Garfield County, which is among the most heavily impacted counties in the state by gas drilling activities, is not among them.
Rifle, New Castle, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, along with Aspen and Pitkin County, have taken positions opposing the legislation before the Colorado General Assembly, House Bill 1223. The bill is co-sponsored by state Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, who represents western Garfield County.
The bill would increase the COGCC board from its current roster of nine members to a new count of 11. Two state agency directors who now have voting privileges — the directors of the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Public Health and Environment — would become non-voting members.
As the bill is now worded, five of the board members “must have substantial experience in the oil and gas industry, and at least two of those five members must have a college degree in petroleum geology or petroleum engineering.
In the current makeup of the COGCC board, which has nine members, only three are required to have “substantial oil and gas experience.” Requirements for the others call for experience in the fields of environmental or wildlife protection, soil conservation, and agriculture.
The House Agriculture Committee amended the bill Monday and forwarded it to the House Appropriations Committee, where it is expected to be taken up for debate within the next two weeks.
On Monday, Bob Millette of Glenwood Springs asked the Garfield County commissioners to take a position on the proposal, but without success. He spoke on behalf of the Roaring Fork Sierra Club group and an ad hoc group of environmental organizations that tracks oil and gas issues in Colorado.
Millette opposes the bill, which he believes would give the industry undue influence in matters before the COGCC board.
“This is a change that’s not necessary,” Millette said of the proposed legislative changes. “It’s a committee that works.”
Noting that other local governments have taken positions against the bill, Millette told the commissioners, “I would like to see you do the same.”
County commissioners Tom Jankovsky and Mike Samson did not respond to Millette’s request, while commission chair John Martin indicated the board would not be taking a position.
The bill would change the oil and gas board makeup for the first time since 2007, when the Legislature increased the commission from its original size of seven to nine.
That legislation also changed the makeup of the board to eliminate its historic dominance by oil and gas industry interests.
Under that new structure, the oil and gas board carried out a controversial overhaul of state rules regulating the industry, and these were put to work in 2008.
At the county meeting, Commissioner John Martin noted that Club 20 is supporting the bill, but Garfield County has taken no position.
When pressed for a position by Millette, Martin said that for now, “I don’t oppose this bill, and I’m not supporting it.”
Martin said he plans to wait and see how other organizations to which the county belongs, such as Colorado Counties Inc., react to the bill.
But, he said during a break in the meeting, Garfield County is not likely to take a position on its own, because the bill is not likely to become law.
“If the House passes it, the Senate probably won’t, and the governor would veto it anyway, and that’s just the way life is,” Martin said.