Even small changes to oil and gas regulations can have deep and damaging effects on Colorado’s economy, according to researchers at the University of Colorado:
A statewide, 2,000-foot buffer zone between drilling rigs and homes, schools and businesses would take a hammer to Colorado’s oil and gas industry, already reeling from low commodity prices, as well as the state’s wider economy, according to a new study from University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.
Such a setback requirement “could result in slower economic growth” for Colorado’s economy as well as state revenue, according to the study released Wednesday.
The study said its forecast on the effects of a 2,000-foot setback included:
Production of oil and gas statewide could drop between 25 percent and 50 percent;
A $6 billion to $11 billion drop in Colorado’s gross domestic product;
A loss of 33,000 and 62,000 jobs between 2015 and 2030;
Loss of $214 million to $428 million in per year in tax revenues from oil and gas companies.
Given that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission just concluded a round of rulemaking based on the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force recommendations from 2015, new and more onerous regulations like the setback examined by CU researchers or the more dangerous proposed fracking bans and various setback ballot measures could have catastrophic consequences on top of the recent commodity downturns impacting the state.
Anti-energy activists have intimated that even more proposals could be in the offing for 2016:
Larimer County resident Katherine Hall, who testified in favor of local control, said she would not be surprised if a citizen-initiated measure ended up on November’s ballot.
“The final outcome of the rule making does not go far enough to ease the concerns of Colorado citizens,” Hall said.
Remember when this blog said the Oil and Gas Task Force was merely kicking the can down the road?
We’ve made our way down that road, and the can is about ready to explode.
In the near term, the COGCC rules could go into effect in as few as 6 to 8 weeks, subject to review by the legislature and the Attorney General:
Compton said the months of rulemakings were “the most difficult” that he’s been through — a string that included the 2008 wholesale overhaul of Colorado’s oil and gas regulations.
The commissioners voted 5-4 to define “large” oil and gas facilities, the threshold that triggers the communication process between energy companies and local governments, as eight new wells and storage tanks that can hold up to 4,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids. The commissioners restricted the rule to large facilities in “urban” areas, defined as 22 buildings within 1,000 feet of the wellsite, rejecting request from some quarters to take the rule statewide.
But the rules appear to exceed the recommendations, and create ambiguities that will only incur more procedural red tape:
The process approved by the COGCC will triple, from 90 days to 270 days, the amount of time needed to get a hearing on a large project before the oil and gas commissioners, said Tracee Bentley, the executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council, an arm of the American Petroleum Institute.
The final rules also said facilities should be “as far as possible” from existing buildings, a phrase Bentley called “vague and confusing” that would cost energy companies time and money to comply with.
The commissioners also rejected a request that existing surface-use agreements between energy companies and landowners be grandfathered, and allowed to avoid the notification and consultation process.
“We feel the industry brought reasonable solutions to the table that were largely ignored, and the rules still go beyond the recommendations of the task force,” said Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.
Bringing reasonable solutions and constructive dialogue should be expected of the industry, but the same can’t be said for the forces calling for the end of natural resource development altogether:
Activists addressing a state oil and gas rulemaking hearing this week levied a barrage of accusations and insults toward state officials and even renewed calls to eliminate Colorado’s state agency responsible for regulating oil and gas development.
Speaking at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) hearing, Lauren Swain, representing national climate activist group 350.org, largely ignored the fact that the rulemaking was supposed to be the focus of the hearing and instead used her time to complain about the agency. From Swain’s testimony:
“With this new proposed rule, the COGCC has proven once again that it can no longer be considered a legitimate state agency because the COGCC continues to facilitate the pace of hazardous polluting oil and gas drilling and fracking operations near homes and schools subjecting communities to the risks of toxic emissions, spills and explosions.”
But Swain took her testimony even farther by lobbying for disbanding the agency in favor of creating a new agency that would “swiftly” transition the state to 100 percent renewables using the Solutions Project at Stanford as a guide. From Swain:
“The COGCC must be replaced with one or more agencies charged with one, facilitating to protect Coloradans from the harmful impact of oil and gas production and two, to aid and foster Colorado’s swift transition to one hundred percent renewable energy production and consumption using the Solutions Project developed at Stanford University as a guide.”
Up next was testimony from an activist who has previously accused the oil and gas industry of having a “personality disorder” and of being “socially deviant.” This time, Amanda Harper called oil and gas producers a “short sighted, selfish and sociopathic industry.”
Not a lot of balance or reasonable tone, it seems.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper offered his comments at an event that saw journalists kicked out and required an open records request to seek audio of the Democrat’s comments–and while he questioned the leverage of the anti-energy groups to get the proposed measures on the 2016 ballot, he surreptitiously argued that the COGCC rules discussed above had, in his opinion as well, gone further than his own Oil and Gas Task Force had recommended:
“I haven’t heard of any funding source for any of them,” Hickenlooper began. “Like the normal, large funders of those initiatives, you know, I haven’t heard of. So, maybe they’ll get on the ballot, but without a lot of money, I don’t think they’re going to do well. I can guarantee you there’ll be money spent showing that, the, the problems associated with any of those initiatives.” (Forum Q & A – 17:05)
Moments later, he added, “Again, we’re going further even than the commission recommended, and in certain cases, to try and give local, local municipal elected officials more, a greater role.”
We’ll see how that plays out.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan received a stay of its own last week when the DC circuit refused to grant a stay of the rule, forcing 26 states to appeal the case to the US Supreme Court.
Meanwhile at the Colorado legislature, Sen. John Cooke (R-Greeley) has championed measures designed to keep the implementation of the Clean Power Plan at arms’ length, allowing lawsuits to be completed before the state moves forward, something Coloradans clearly support:
Two weeks into the 2016 legislative session, Sen. John Cooke, a Republican from the heart of the Front Range oil and gas patch in Greeley, has introduced two bills that take aim at the plan, which requires power plants to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, largely by shutting down or converting coal-fired plants to alternative fuel sources.
One of Cooke’s bills couldn’t be more timely. After several state attorneys general, including Colorado’s Cynthia Coffman, failed to win a stay of the plan from a federal court Thursday, Cooke’s Senate Bill 46 jumps into the ring like a tag-team wrestler, working from another angle to stall implementation of the Obama administration plan.
“Well, it wasn’t really a surprise that the court in D.C. struck down the stay request,” Cooke told The Colorado Statesman. “Unfortunately, the bill is more relevant now.”
The “Preserve State Clean Power Plan Options Act” aims to “slow down the implementation process” in part by suspending it “until all [related] lawsuits are done,” Cooke told members of three rural Colorado advocacy groups, including some representing coal mining areas, who were visiting the Capitol Friday.
In effect, Colorado wouldn’t need a stay from a court because it would have passed a stay for itself, written by Cooke.
Cooke’s other bill, SB 61 or “Ratepayer Protection Act,” would require the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to pay for costs generated as a result of Clean Power Plan implementation.
Silverton punts on Superfund designation