Earlier this year, Colorado governor Jared Polis signed into law SB181, a controversial bill that sought to hand oil and gas decision-making power over to the communities living among energy projects. That was the bill’s stated intention, at least, but new actions from one of Colorado’s most energy-friendly counties is putting lawmakers to the test.
Power to the People
When SB181 became law, Democrats hailed the decision as a victory for citizens who had spoken out against the oil and gas presence in their communities. In addition to transforming the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state’s energy-industry liaison, into a purely regulatory body, SB181 purportedly allowed individual Colorado counties to set their own oil and gas guidelines.
Cards on the table, the idea was that SB181 would empower left-leaning towns like Boulder, Colorado to enforce community-wide moratoriums on energy development that, up to that point, had been flat-out illegal. No one imagined that the rules could be used in the other direction.
No one, that is, except the folks in Weld County.
‘Ready to Do Business’
As the new incarnation of the COGCC attempts to find its way down a brand new path, the state as a whole is losing income. As Weld County Commissioner Scott James explained, “We know we are already facing economic losses as a county due to the delay of permit approvals by the COGCC since January. They haven’t even begun to make a dent in their rulemaking and procedures. Weld County, on the other hand, is ready to do business.”
So, rather than sit back and wait to go broke, Weld County took the initiative to preserve their place as a friendly place for energy expansion. Their answer is a county-run Oil and Gas Department, run by Jason Maxey. The 12-person team is composed of an array of specialists who will oversee everything from regulations to permitting to public safety inspections.
Said Commissioner Steve Moreno, “As we have said before, we are ready to fully accept the local control provision given to us by SB-181.”
The ‘Critical’ COGCC
Just as it looked like Weld County was set to secure 88 percent of Colorado’s oil extraction, the new COGCC responded in kind:
“While SB 19-181 provides local governments with siting authority over oil and gas surface locations, it does not diminish the COGCC’s authority to regulate the orderly development of oil and gas throughout the state.”
Translation: Colorado citizens can absolutely define the terms of energy extraction in their community, so long as that definition coincides with the larger state government’s.
Who’s Crying Out for Oil and Gas Removal?
When Governor Polis signed SB 181 into law, he did so after statewide votes repeatedly rejected, “attempts to impose tighter restrictions on the industry.”
Watching SB 181 in action, one has to wonder if this bill is meant to support the majority of Colorado’s citizens or its loudest.