2019 Leg Session, Boulder, Energy, Environment, Featured, Gold Dome, Governor Polis, Politics, Sherrie Peif, Uncategorized, Weld County

County officials file ballot initiative to repeal oil and gas bill; create new regulatory authority

GREELEY — Two Colorado residents have filed four initiatives with the Secretary of State’s office that would ask voters to not only void Senate Bill 19-181 (if passed), but also replace the current Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) with a new regulatory agency and take regulations back to Hickenlooper-era rules.

Barbara Kirkmeyer

Weld County Commissioner Chairwoman Barbara Kirkmeyer and Former Arapahoe County Commissioner John Brackney filed the initiatives earlier this week, Kirkmeyer said.

The idea, named The Oil and Gas Independent Regulatory Act, “seeks to remedy an alarming trend in Colorado politics — escalating efforts by special interest groups and out-of-state political operatives to politicize the regulation of oil and natural gas development,” an information sheet on the initiatives says. “This ballot measure would create an independent regulatory commission, free from political interference, to ensure future regulation of the energy sector is driven by the facts.”

Four different versions of the Act were filed. Only one will make its way to signature gathering, and will need just under 125,000 signatures to make it onto the ballot. The number of signatures needed is equal to 5 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last election for Secretary of State.

The first hearing on the initiative is before Legislative Legal Services at 10 a.m. on April 4 in House Committee Room 109. Full texts can be found here: 2019-2020 #64 — Oil and Gas Regulation; 2019-2020 #65 — Oil and Gas Regulation; 2019-2020 #66 — Oil and Gas Regulation; and 2019-2020 #67 — Oil and Gas Regulation

Kirkmeyer called the plan balanced and reasonable.

John Brackney

“The measure creates an independent commission to replace the COGCC, consisting of members nominated by the mutual agreement of Republicans and Democrats, and selected by a bipartisan panel of judges. Our initiative reinstates the Hickenlooper-era rules, will repeal SB-181, and directs the new commission to expand the rules in important ways, like strengthening the role of local government, and strengthening air monitoring requirements.”

The information sheet describes in detail:

  • Why an independent regulatory commissioner is needed.
  • How Proposition 112, which would have put a de facto ban on all new drilling and was defeated last fall 55-45 by voters, threatened fact-based regulation.
  • How SB 181 threatens fact-based regulation.
  • Why it maters if oil and gas regulatory decisions are politicized.
  • The details of the Oil and Gas Independent Regulatory Act.

Kirkmeyer and Brackney argue that Colorado voters are tired of political wars over oil and gas. They want an independent commission with checks and balances.

“It’s why they rejected Proposition 112,” the info sheet says. “But politicians just want to keep the oil and gas wars going. … Creating an independent, non-partisan commission is the best way. No lobbyists. No revolving door for legislators. Just impartial experts.”

The Act would:

  • Repeal SB-181, restoring Colorado’s former regulations developed by the Ritter and Hickenlooper administrations.
  • Direct the independent commission to evaluate and toughen those rules in specific ways, including local involvement in permitting decisions.
  • Remove the independent commission’s budget from state spending limits.
  • Create a special oil and gas local government fund to support counties and municipalities as they work in partnership with the newly created independent commission to monitor and oversee energy development.

Kirkmeyer, who along with other members of the Weld County Board of Commissioners has been trying to work with Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder and Gov. Jared Polis, also a Boulder Democrat, on amendments to SB 181 to no avail, told Complete Colorado she has no confidence that any version of the bill will pass that won’t destroy the Colorado economy.

She said more than 6,100 permits statewide, 4,500 of which are in her county, are in a que that is now being stalled by SB 181; calling it a de facto ban.

“They … have been on hold since at least December,” Kirkmeyer said. “It says very specifically in the bill that all these rules have to become effective. The director may refuse to issue a permit, if the director determines certain objective criteria. What are those?  They are either going to severely reduce the number of permits that will be approved, or they are putting a halt essentially to all the permitting.” Senator Fenberg and Jeff Robbins, the director of the COGCC, stated in testimony that the intention is of all the permits currently in the process, that they have to follow the rules that come out of 181.”

Kirkmeyer said in a prepared statement that “voters overwhelmingly rejected a de facto ban on oil and gas last fall, and when given the chance in 2019, we believe they’ll reject the backdoor ban barreling through the legislature too. We aren’t going to roll over and let regressive Boulder politicians and the party-line lemmings following them kill an industry, destroy jobs, devastate families and slash energy funding that goes to our schools. The Boulder Mafia is grossly overreaching, and mainstream voters of this state will reject their extremism.”

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