The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission may reach a consensus on two industry regulation recommendations at a Monday hearing in Denver that will have a significant impact on local communities’ control.
La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, who was co-chair person of a governor-appointed task force assigned to making recommendations to the oil and gas commission, said she’s “not expecting a lot” out of Monday’s meeting.
The two rules under scrutiny address whether oil and gas companies are required to both register and consult with local and surrounding governments before building large facilities.
Last fall, La Plata County formally protested that the commission missed the mark, defeating the purpose of the task force by excluding local control.
“Both recommendation 17 and 20 have been watered down considerably from their original intent,” Lachelt said. A county staff attorney will attend the meeting to advocate for local inclusion in the consultation process.
Stakeholders also have been divided over regulations on how close a structure can be built to a residential area. Some are concerned rules on “urban mitigation areas” – areas where oil and gas activity take place within 1,000 feet of a school, hospital or at least 22 homes – are applicable to Front Range communities but not rural La Plata County.
Lachelt disagreed, pointing to areas such as Forest Lakes, Pine River Ranch and Mercy Regional Medical Center that should be afforded the same protections as the Front Range.
“Our intent was to make sure that whether it’s an urban neighborhood, a rural subdivision or even a single-family home, everyone is afforded the same protections and notification, so everyone is on a level playing field.”
Conversely, Commissioner Brad Blake was confident that “urban mitigation” rules were not as much of a concern for La Plata County.
“I know our rules are fairly stringent and have been in place for some time, and I think we’d have the opportunity to mitigate any problems if they came up,” he said. “We want to make sure we have a say locally, and that’s my main push.”
Commissioner Julie Westendorff could not be reached for comment.
Drafts of both recommendations can be found on the COGCC website at cogcc.state.co.us.