Colorado's proposals for local input on siting decisions under attack as too much, too little

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DENVER — State regulators have released proposed rules to give local governments more of a say in the location of new oil and gas wells, and they quickly came under fire Wednesday from the energy industry and environmental groups.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is drawing up the rules to implement the recommendations of a task force convened by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The governor asked the group to address tensions over hydraulic fracturing and conflicts that arise when cities and oilfields expand into each other.

The task force recommended, among other things, that local governments be given a consulting role when energy companies are deciding where to locate large oil and gas facilities if they're near homes or businesses. Cities and counties would not be able to enforce their own rules, however.

Regulators released the first draft of the rules Tuesday and scheduled public hearings for Nov. 16-17.

Five environmental and community groups issued a statement saying the draft rules don't do enough to protect residents from having oil and gas operations close to their homes and schools.

"We're getting thrown under the bus here," said Leslie Robinson, president of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance. "Drilling in neighborhoods spurred the recent controversies about oil and gas development in Colorado. These draft rules fail to address this root problem."

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association said the proposals include several requirements that weren't in the task force recommendations, including some measures to soften the impact of oil and gas activity, and notifying local governments with jurisdiction over land adjacent to the proposed facilities, even if they don't have jurisdiction over the site itself.

"It's clear the draft rules far exceed the actual recommendations put forward by the governor's task force," association president Dan Haley said in a written statement.

Another industry group, the Colorado Petroleum Council, said it's still reviewing the proposals but warned they shouldn't add expensive and redundant regulations that discourage investment.

Todd Hartman, a spokesman for state regulators, declined to comment on the criticism.

The draft rules would also require energy companies to notify local governments when big facilities are planned inside their jurisdiction and offer to consult with them.

If a company and a local government can't agree on the location, the company would be required to offer mediation, with the cost split between them. The company could still ask the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to approve its plan even if the mediation doesn't produce an agreement.

Task force member Pat Quinn, who wrote one of the two recommendations, said he had not yet read the draft rules. Bernie Buescher, who wrote the other recommendation, didn't immediately respond to an email.


Draft rules:

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