Environmentalists blast Colorado’s new drilling task force as Trojan horse

03-01-2012 // Troy Hooper - The Colorado Independent

This excerpt is from The Colorado Independent

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s intervention in the debate over whether the state or local jurisdictions should regulate oil and gas drilling is rankling environmentalists who, two days earlier, called him out for making misleading statements on groundwater contamination.

The governor signed an executive order Wednesday to create an 11-member task force “to help clarify and better coordinate” the regulatory jurisdiction between the state and local governments over oil and gas operations. He asked the task force to report its recommendations and findings to him, the speaker of the state House and president of the state Senate by April 18.

The move follows heated debate at the capitol, where a Republican senator proposed empowering the state with sole regulatory authority over drilling. The proposal, HB 12-088, died in the Democrat-controlled Senate. A competing bill, introduced by a Democrat, would have assigned oil and gas regulatory power to local governments. It was killed in the GOP-controlled House.

“County land use regulations, ordinances and charter amendments empowered by the Colorado Constitution and upheld by the courts here and in New York, are the only means left for people to protect their communities from the excesses of an abusively powerful industry,” said Ceal Smith of the newly launched Coalition for a Clean Colorado.

“Two weeks ago, thousands of citizens spoke firmly against HB 12-088 and in favor of local regulatory authority over oil and gas activities. The governor’s executive order on fracking is a blatant attempt to circumvent the will of the people,” Smith said. “The communities most impacted have no voice or representation whatsoever on the governor’s hand-picked task force. We are frankly shocked by this autocratic assault on our democracy and community rights.”

The state task force will be chaired by Mike King, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and it will include representatives from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the Board of Directors of Colorado Counties Inc., the Colorado Municipal League, the Colorado Petroleum Association, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Colorado Conservation Voters, the Colorado House of Representatives, the Colorado Senate, and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

“There are two slots for industry trade associations, but there is no place on the task force for a single conservation organization with on-the-ground expertise in the effect of drilling on local communities, air and water quality, fish, wildlife, noise and dust levels,” said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s senior policy adviser on public lands.

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