Oil and gas task force member takes COGCC to task

October 27, 2015

Colorado, oil and gas drilling

Jim Fitzgerald, center listens during an oil & gas task force debate last February. [David Zalubowski, The Associated Press]

Jim Fitzgerald, center listens during an oil & gas task force debate last February. [David Zalubowski, The Associated Press]

Jim Fitzgerald was a member of Governor Hickenlooper’s oil & gas task force. Jim and his family live and work on his farm in the gas patch near Bayfield, CO. Fitzgerald has a PhD from the University of Colorado and taught Sociology and Spanish at Fort Lewis College for 30 years. Fitzgerald was a member of the US Peace Corps for 5 years in Latin America.

This week Jim sent this letter to the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and the Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP):

Consider this as comment on your current rulemaking about Task Force recommendations from a very disgruntled member of that Task Force. The issues you are currently considering are only a small portion of what you should be considering for adoption. The COGCC must consider all thirteen of the oil and gas task force proposals which received 11 or more votes from the 21 member task force.

Gwen Lachelt, the former chairwoman of the oil and gas task force told the Durango Herald (October 10) that the rules currently proposed by the COGCC “gut” the intent of the task force. Not only do they gut our intent, they simply disappeared 13 proposals which received positive votes from a majority of the task force. In order to understand how so many intelligent people could waste so much time in the production of something so useless, it’s important to describe the outrageous rigging of the process by the governor’s office.

The 21 members of the task force (including myself) were recruited and assembled under Executive Order B 2014 005. Section II E of that Order stated that: “Recommendations of the Task Force regarding new or amended legislation shall be made by a two-thirds vote of the membership.” It was understood by many, if not most of the members that any proposal that did not require new or amended legislation and which received a simple majority of support would be forwarded for consideration for a rulemaking by the COGCC.

After several weeks of meetings, Mike King from the Department of Natural Resources informed our group that all proposals would need a two-thirds vote in order to be considered for adoption. There was no vote on this change. It was simply announced. Therefore when the Keystone Center issued the final report they made the bizarre decision to place 13 proposals which received 11 or more votes in the section of “Minority Report.” The result was that several important proposals to give local governments more standing have not been considered even when they had as many as 13 positive votes. Thirteen out of 21 is not a minority. (See recommendations #7, #12, 12a, and #2 for example in the Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force Final Report: Minority Report, p. 20) There were several other important proposals with majority votes which were excluded.

The governor has chosen to make a mockery of the entire Task Force purpose and process. There were many who chose to participate in that Task Force who did so with much skepticism about accomplishing a whole lot. But I believe that even the most cynical of us never thought that there would be such shameless manipulation to ensure an outcome that had been pre-decided. An outcome that did not reflect in any way the hard work and sincere effort that the majority of Task Force members put into this.

Reprinted with permission.

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2 Comments on “Oil and gas task force member takes COGCC to task”

  1. frackfiles Says:

    Like we didn’t expect that the deck was stacked from the onset? For elected officials to dismiss ballot initiatives 88 and 89 in lieu of a hand picked task force is a mockery of our citizens rights!

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  1. Infrared Video Shows Gas Leaks - Clean Energy Action - November 5, 2015

    […] recent letter (full text here) from Jim Fitzgerald, a Bayfield rancher and member of the Commission’s Task Force charged […]

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