We must break impasse over siting of oil and gas production

by Rodger Steen, Chairperson of WCC Oil & Gas Committee
Letter to the Editor in Grand Junction Sentinel, May 29, 2016

Rodger Steen

Regarding the impasse in Colorado over location of oil and gas production sites, after following the 2016 Colorado legislative session and providing carefully reasoned comment when we believed it should be effective, we find it frustrating there was so little movement, perhaps gridlock, in the Legislature related to these impacts of oil and gas development in residential areas.

It has been two years since Gov. Hickenlooper convened his Oil and Gas Task Force and we are still stuck when it comes to finding a way forward on the primary conflict between residents and industry over location of new production wells (and associated facilities). This issue can be described in terms of local government land-use control or more directly as minimum setback distances. It continues to divide the state and is heading towards a ballot fight — which could insert a requirement in our state Constitution, the worst way for resolving a specific issue.

That is not for lack of trying. Four different bills seeking to amend oil and gas regulations were brought forward and killed in the Legislature this year. Then the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against local government regulation of oil and gas. All this together can leave impacted landowners with little faith in our government to resolve these types of technical issues. Try selling your house when there is an oil well and associated regular truck traffic operating 500 feet from it.

However, as frustrating as all this is, those of us on the Western Slope are glad to see oil and gas issues finally getting some attention at the Legislature. Coloradans impacted by oil and gas development look forward to next session, where legislators on both sides of the aisle can help us find a path forward on this oil and gas issue. We continue to look forward and are ready to work with legislators, industry, and other regions of Colorado to break this impasse.

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