by Frank Smith, WCC Director of Organizing
Shortly before the November elections, Governor John Hickenlooper tasked a panel of experts to consider updates to Colorado’s laws around oil & gas extraction and development.
In particular, activists around the state have raised the issues of a) local authority to regulate above minimums set by the state, and b) setbacks (or buffer zones) around industrial facilities.
Colorado’s new Blue Ribbon Oil and Gas Task Force includes 21 representatives from oil & gas companies, local government, former lawmakers, and some environmental voices. It has been meeting monthly across the state and is supposed to offer recommendations for Colorado General Assembly consideration in Spring 2015.
There’s a public meeting in Rifle (exact location to be announced) with this Blue Ribbon Task Force on December 10-11. Can’t make the meeting in person? Email your comments to the State Task force: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Western Slope faces on the Task Force include Bernie Buescher (Mesa County), Russell George (Garfield County) and Gwen Lachelt (La Plata County Commissioner). WCC’s long-time friend Matt Sura, also serves on the new panel as an independent attorney.
WCC members and staff have begun hounding the Task Force to elevate grassroots voices and local examples from western Colorado in the process. Members have also been listening to Denver meetings via the internet, attending Garfield County events (that otherwise would have been private get-togethers with industry), and connecting with other groups across the state.
WCC is pushing to get the strongest recommendations possible, and gearing up for a big public presence at future Task Force functions.
Colorado needs larger buffer zones between oil & gas and things like homes and rivers. Current standards of 500 feet from a home and 1000 ft from a school are insufficient. Fracking also needs to be as far as possible from other sensitive locations, such as irrigation canals, “riparian” areas, lakes and flood plains.
And finally, local authorities need the explicit ability to adopt safeguards beyond state minimums for oil & gas development. Of course, pending permits near people must be put on hold while the Task Force mulls its recommendations for legislative approval.
For more information, contact WCC at (970) 256-7650.