This week (Thursday and Friday) Governor Hickenlooper’s and Congressman Jared Polis’s blue ribbon oil & gas task force met at The Ranch at the Larimer County Fairgrounds in Loveland. On Thursday, task force members were greeted by more than one hundred demonstrators who conducted a public rally where citizens spoke out against oil and gas development inside their communities.
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I listened to the livestream audio for several hours both days. The Thursday afternoon session (approx. 12:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.) included a lively and interesting panel discussion between the following local government officials:
- Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, Weld County
- Commissioner Elise Jones, Boulder County
- Council Member Hugh McKean, City of Loveland
- Mayor Christine Berg, Lafayette
- Mayor Dennis Coombs, Longmont and Eugene Mei, Longmont City Attorney
The discussion with Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones brought out the stark contrast between two counties that have sharply different economic priorities and visions for the future. Weld County thinks oil and gas development works just swell for them, whereas Boulder County wants “the ability to not be Weld County.”
Longmont Times-Call reporter Karen Antonacci described the discussion best in her article:
Boulder, Weld counties go head to head on local control over oil and gas
Commissioner: ‘Boulder County does not want to be Weld County’
LOVELAND — Boulder and Weld counties went head to head Thursday over whether there is enough local control over the oil and gas industry.
Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones and Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer volleyed questions from members of the governor’s oil and gas task force back and forth.
Kirkmeyer told the task force that as the location of roughly 80 percent of the state’s active oil and gas drilling sites, Weld County understands that burdensome regulations could affect the state’s industry significantly.
Jones argued that Boulder County’s interests are very different, and she advocated for stronger local control tools, such as zoning.
“Boulder County does not want to be Weld County, and I’m sure the feeling is mutual,” Jones said. “We are asking for the ability to not be Weld County” …
During the discussion Jones said, “In Boulder County, oil and gas is not important to our local economy. In fact, it’s antithetical to the foundations of our economic prosperity in many ways. Scenic landscapes, outdoor recreation, clean air, clean water, a high quality of life, students, tourists, entrepreneurs — that’s our bread and butter, and we have to balance land uses so we can protect our local economy.”
Task force member and oil company Cirque Resources CEO Peter Dea took issue with Jones’ statement, saying that without oil and gas, Boulder County wouldn’t have an economy at all.
“I don’t see many people hiking or riding horses to see Boulder County,” Dea said. “They’re using petroleum products.”
In a perfect world Dea would’ve gotten a 10-minute misconduct penalty for that comment. It is such a tired old argument. Jones didn’t respond so I will. The government-subsidized oil & gas industry has for decades wielded their enormous power to foster human dependence on fossil fuels by making certain we have few options, or no options, for fueling our vehicles or heating our homes, other than oil and gas. We are dependent on food to survive but we don’t put farms in the middle of communities – though farms would be far more preferable than gas wells.
Anyway Elise Jones made an excellent case that oil & gas development should not be forced upon counties and communities. They should be able to negotiate through comprehensive development plans, zoning, and other land use tools they use when dealing with any other business or industry.
“Local communities know what’s best for them. That’s why we have local land-use regulations. The state wouldn’t come into our communities and tell us where to put housing development or retail shops. Why is it different with oil and gas?” Jones asked the task force members. .
As part of a compromise, Governor Hickenlooper has proposed that local governments pursue memorandums of understanding, or MOUs, with local operators.
But Jones dismissed that recommendation, saying, “MOUs are fine, but they’re not enough. What you can get in an MOU is what industry wants to give you.” She pointed out that MOUs don’t afford local governments the “leverage” to enforce such agreements. “It’s an anemic tool unless the playing field is significantly leveled.”
The public comments portion of Thursday’s meeting lasted from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Even with a two-hour block of time, only about half the people who showed up had the chance to speak. Read more in this Loveland Reporter/Herald article:
Wide range of views greets fracking panel in Loveland
Elected officials, residents for and against stricter regulations for industry give input
Garfield County oil & gas liaison Kirby Wynn sucked up two minutes of the time allotted to the public to give his snake oil sales pitch urging the task force to hear a local government presentation at the Rifle meeting in December, so Garfield County, and other western counties, can educate them on how to mitigate oil & gas development. I can save everyone some time. It’s really easy. Elect county commissioners whose campaigns are funded by the oil & gas industry. They become puppets of the COGCC. They abolish land use codes. They marginalize any and all who disagree with them. And they enforce a strict “if you don’t like it then leave” policy.
I mean who wouldn’t want to be like Garfield County, home of the worst hydrocarbon spill in the history of Colorado, poisoned aquifers, toxic air, birth defects, and chronically ill residents?
When he finished speaking, Wynn was asked by the task force moderator if he was an elected official. He replied that he was representing the Garfield County commissioners and he was not an elected official and is the oil & gas liaison. The moderator thanked him for his comments and then chastised him that the time allotted in the beginning of the comments section had been reserved for elected officials only. Come to find out in the exchange between Wynn and the moderator (which took up another minute of the public’s time), Garfield County had already submitted a letter stating the exact contents of his comment.
Well bravo! I gotta hand it Kirby. In three short minutes he succeeded in providing a public demonstration of a couple “tools” Garfield County uses to “navigate” oil & gas issues: Control the conversation and manipulate the rules to “mitigate” as much public input as possible.
Today’s meeting ran from about 8:30 a.m until noon. Task force members discussed their reactions to Thursday’s panel discussions and public comments, and talked about their plans moving forward. Most importantly they identified the four basic issues that they need to focus on for the remainder of their meetings:
- Ways local governments can have more input into the siting of wells and oil and gas operations.
- Ways to encourage consolidation of oil and gas activities.
- Ways to assess the social and health impacts of oil and gas development.
- The use of master plans to promote orderly development.
Worst analogy of the week
I don’t recall his name but during Thursday’s meeting a gentleman compared the construction of a well pad followed by the drilling and fracking processes to the temporary inconveniences of any old major construction project. Task force member and Anadarko VP Brad Holly reiterated the ridiculous analogy on Friday morning insisting that the impact to the community only lasts for a few short months. Fellow task force member, Attorney Matt Sura set the two men straight on the obvious differences between the two. Oh, like construction projects don’t drill a mile or more underground or emit toxic chemicals or become a massive permanent industrial operation for over thirty years. And furthermore, major construction projects are subject to local control through land use codes. Duh.
The next two-day task force session is scheduled for December 10-11, in Rifle at an as yet undisclosed location. Click on Schedule in the box labeled Oil and Gas Task Force in the upper right corner for updates.
More articles –
LOVELAND — The power of local government over drilling — or lack of — was the focus of the governor’s oil and gas task force Thursday.
The 21-member task force, meeting at The Ranch at the Larimer County Fairgrounds, heard from Front Range elected officials who are dealing with oil and gas issues.
“We are facing a political firestorm,” Lafayette Mayor Christine Berg told them …