Colorado Democratic leaders tout benefits of oil/gas, urge ‘collaborative conversation’

Colorado drilling

“The more discussion, the higher probability we’ll get a solution both sides can live with”

At an event sponsored by the Colorado Petroleum Council and the American Petroleum Institute (API) yesterday, Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D), and API president and chief executive officer Jack Gerard hailed the contributions of the oil and natural gas industry to the state and urged collaboration and conversation on the challenges surrounding development.

Regarding Boulder County’s five-year-old series of oil and natural gas moratoria, the governor said he was “hopeful” that the county would adopt a framework that would allow for development to move forward, so “it’s not going to try and ban the industry, ban fracking, or ban any form of the industry”:

“We were hopeful that we could continue working with the county and stakeholders. They are really committed to bringing out in the near future a new set of rules and we want to see what those rules look like. … I’m hopeful – I’m ever the optimist – I’m hopeful that Boulder County is going to come around with a set of rules that allow that conversation to take place. So it’s not going to try and ban the industry, ban fracking, or ban any form of the industry.”

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Last month, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman filed a lawsuit against Boulder County over its series of moratoria, writing in a court filing that Boulder’s “open defiance of state law has made legal action the final recourse available.” A Colorado Supreme Court ruling last year found local bans on development “invalid and unenforceable.”

When asked to comment on the lawsuit, Gov. Hickenlooper said, “I respect the attorney general; I understand where she’s coming from on this.” “The attorney general did what she felt was right and important,” he added.

Banning oil and natural gas development would infringe upon mineral rights, an issue that the governor has highlighted several times in the past and touched on again yesterday:

“We understand the conflict between people’s sense of quiet enjoyment of their homes, but also the property rights in our Constitution. If people own minerals, they have a constitutional right to access those minerals. … We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves, sit down, and figure out … how do we respect people’s neighborhood but at the same time respect people’s property rights?”

Weighing in on industry proposals to minimize surface footprint by placing several wells in one location, the governor called it a “much more efficient” approach to operations:

“I would argue by having them concentrated on one well site, you are eliminating lots of other well sites around that neighborhood, with trucks going everywhere, and the more concentrated it is, the easier it is to put your storage capacity, your tanks, put them partially underground, or you put a berm around them so they’re not so unsightly, [and] the noise is much less because you can drill the wells more rapidly. It’s a much more efficient way to go about it.”

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Although Denver does not see as much development as other parts of the state, Mayor Hancock nevertheless acknowledged the industry’s presence in the city:

“We recognize that the oil and gas industry is a huge player in our state’s economy. I recognize that in Denver, Colorado, when I look at almost 20 percent of our real estate houses employees from the oil and gas industry. 17,000 employees downtown.”

The mayor also shared his conversations with oil and natural gas operators in Colorado, noting that their “number one concern is the environment in Colorado,” and that “simply they want an opportunity to bring greater knowledge about the industry, about their practices, to the marketplace”:

“I’ll tell you that in conversations with all of the players – Encana, Anadarko, BP – the number one concern is the environment in Colorado in terms of the push for restrictive regulations around exploration, and fracking. And that simply they want an opportunity to bring greater knowledge about the industry, about their practices, to the marketplace, and while we are excited about renewable energies, we need to make sure that we keep a balanced approach to both … sides of the sector at the same time, and I think we can do that nationally as well.”

“Colorado is a role model for how to enact smart energy policies that protect the environment and workers and that promote responsible energy development,” said Gerard. “Colorado has been a key driver in helping the United States become number one in production and refining of oil and natural gas in the world while also leading the world in reducing carbon emissions.

Moving forward, the mayor and the governor urged “collaborative conversation” and a “balanced approach” on development, reminders that are particularly timely against the backdrop of recent local government meetings in Broomfield, where constructive dialogue prevailed, and Lafayette, where anti-fracking activists shouted down local elected officials just days ago.

“We live in a state where citizens truly value the ability to collaborate and discuss tough issues,” said Mayor Hancock, “and only when we are afraid to approach those tough issues in a collaborative manner do we find those issues being exacerbated because we didn’t have the conversation.”

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The mayor urged a “balanced approach” toward safe and responsible oil and natural gas development:

“What’s important is for me to create the environment where we can have a collaborative conversation about how we have a balanced approach to any of the concerns that come forward with regards to the oil and gas industry and of course honoring the commitment of keeping our citizens healthy and safe while also keeping our economy strong.”

“The more discussion, the higher the probability we’ll get to a solution that both sides can live with,” the governor said.