Task force fails to address setbacks

February 3, 2015

Colorado, task force

Well pad site near residential subdivision and Red Hawk Elementary School in Erie, CO. Scenes like this won’t change after task force fails to address setbacks. [Photo by Aurora Open/SuperStock]

Well pad site near residential subdivision and Red Hawk Elementary School in Erie, CO. Scenes like this will become more commonplace after task force fails to address setbacks. [Photo by Aurora Open/SuperStock]

Last August, Governor John Hickenlooper and Congressman Jared Polis met in secret to horse trade the democratic ballot initiative process. In the back room deal, Polis agreed to pull the plug on two ballot measures he supported in exchange for the formation of a 21-member Blue Ribbon Task Force handpicked by the Governor.

Initiative 88 had proposed a minimum setback distance of “at least” 2,000 feet. Initiative 89 had designated “state and local governments as trustees of clean air, pure water and the natural and scenic values of Colorado’s land,” and would have given local governments the power to enact laws, regulations and ordinances more restrictive and protective of the environment than those adopted by state government.

In Denver today the task force failed at 50% of their “task” when members, in a straw poll, declined to support a proposal to increase the minimum setbacks to 1,000 feet from homes and 2,000 feet from schools. Current setbacks are 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools.

Dozens of proposals received the required two-thirds support to move forward in the process. Those proposals have not been voted on for final recommendation to the Governor. Wrap-up is scheduled for February 27, so the clock is ticking.

Several proposals that moved forward today were aimed at addressing the issues of local control outlined in Initiative 89, but none of them give local governments the authority to reject oil & gas development. Other proposals moving forward include:

  • Notification to local governments of plans for large, multi-well operations sites
  • Compensation for damages to surface rights owners
  • Increased air quality monitoring by CDPHE
  • Increase in COGCC staff
  • Full disclosure on chemicals used in fracking
  • And – you guessed it – more health studies!

Apparently we succeeded in cutting through that crust of denial and even the industry members are curious about what’s killing us out here in the gaspatch. After all, whatever it is, it might be coming for them one day …

Read more:

Colorado oil, gas task force votes yea on increased local control

… “The cost of some of these recommendations could be very high,” said Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, a trade group. “I think they have to get that. They still have a lot of work to do.”

Some task force members said that the core issue of more local control of drilling still hasn’t been addressed.

“I have a concern we are still stepping around the major issue at the heart of conflict,” said Jon Goldin-Dubois, president of the environmental group Western Resource Advocates and a task force member.

Task force unlikely to suggest bigger buffers for wells

… Former state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Kourlis, a task force member, recommended giving landowners the right to suggest which site they preferred and requiring drilling companies to pay the full cost of damage if they choose another site.

Task force member Perry Pearce, a government affairs manager for ConocoPhillips, said that would significantly weaken energy companies’ rights. “Essentially, you’re allowing a surface owner to dictate a location, which he cannot do now,” Pearce said …

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