A task force created by Gov. John Hickenlooper to clarify and better coordinate the regulatory jurisdiction between state and local government has finished its work and made recommendations in a letter to the governor and General Assembly.
"The Task Force does not make recommendations for new laws, but instead recommends a collaborative process through which issues can be resolved without litigation or new legislation," the task force letter says. "The Task Force determined that whether there is sufficient reason to amend (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) rules on substantive issues listed in the Executive Order, such as those impacting landowners, should be resolved on an issue-by-issue basis through a robust stakeholder process."
Hickenlooper created the task force by Executive Order on Feb. 29, 2012. The group was asked to deliver a report no later than today to the governor, Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives and President of the Colorado Senate.
"The task force has provided a roadmap for how best to deal with issues of local control," Hickenlooper said. "We very much appreciate the task force members' time and commitment to finding collaborative solutions."
The task force recommended:
* Encouraging local governments to designate a Local Government Designee (LGD) and to participate in the COGCC's LGD program. Encourage LGDs to communicate industry proposals and issues with local elected officials and the public as soon as possible. However, if there is no LGD, then the municipal or county clerk may be the contact for a local jurisdiction. Providing strong encouragement to oil and gas operators to engage local government officials and the public as early in the COGCC permitting process as possible to solicit input. Initial outreach to the LGDs should occur before the application for permit to drill is filed with the COGCC. Issues to be addressed will vary on site-by-site basis.
* Informing LGDs of opportunity to request additional 10 days to review permits and to request assistance from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). COGCC shall inform LGDs if formal consultation with CDPHE or CPW is to occur on a drilling permit application.
* Taking actions to ensure that the two new LGD liaisons at COGCC will be effective in working with local governments, oil and gas operators, and the public.
* Providing for a mutual understanding of oil and gas industry and local government practices by facilitating distribution of accurate information. Local governments, oil and gas operators, and COGCC should collaborate to, for example, identify the potential development impacts, duration of drilling operations, and proposed mitigation to protect public health, safety, welfare and the environment.
* Formalizing and promote opportunities for technical training of LGDs and other training/briefings for the general public. This should include annual training for new LGDs and periodic work sessions for LGDs or local government entities, based on need.
* Providing general education presentations in community forums, covering the entire state periodically.
* Local governments and operators should consider using an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and/or Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), as appropriate, to address issues of local concern (e.g. standard conditions of approval, public outreach, etc.).
* Promoting opportunity for COGCC staff to obtain information regarding local government process and requirements, as appropriate. Local governments are encouraged to notify COGCC early in the process of developing local regulations.
The Task Force convened on March 9 and met once per week through April 12, in addition to two additional subcommittee working sessions. At the meetings, the Task Force was briefed on the COGCC's Local Government Designee program, the COGCC inspection program, and received an overview of COGCC's permitting process and regulatory timelines. Members learned about the legal underpinnings for Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) and Intergovernmental Agreements (IGA) between the state and local jurisdictions with regard to inspection authority. The Task Force also heard policy perspectives from Gunnison County, a local jurisdiction that recently entered into an MOU and has a pending IGA with the State, as well as from LGDs in jurisdictions where oil and gas activity has long been established.
Finally, the Task Force received more than 1,600 public comments.
All meetings of the Task Force were publicly noticed and streamed on the internet. All documents considered or generated by the Task Force were posted on a dedicated web page and available for the public to download and review.
"The Task Force discussed jurisdictional issues regarding substantive regulations but determined that drawing bright lines between state and local jurisdictional authority was neither realistic nor productive," the task force letter says. "A more constructive approach will result from collaboration and coordination as outlined above. Through these processes, and the protocols that give them structure, questions around jurisdictional regulatory schemes will most effectively be resolved."
The task force members were: Mike King, Chair, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources; Diana Allen, Member, Lakewood City Council (on behalf of Colorado Municipal League); Brian Bagley, Attorney, Longmont (on behalf of Colorado Senate President); Reeves Brown, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Local Affairs; Stan Dempsey, President, Colorado Petroleum Association; Barbara Green, Attorney, Denver (on behalf of Colorado Conservation Voters); Jack Hilbert, Commissioner, Douglas County Board of County Commissioners (on behalf of Colorado Counties Inc.); Tommy Holton, Mayor, Fort Lupton and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner; Tisha Conoly Schuller, Chief Executive Officer, Colorado Oil and Gas Association; Casey Shpall, Deputy Attorney General; Andy Spielman, Attorney, Denver and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner; and Ken Wonstolen, Attorney, Denver (on behalf of Colorado House of Representatives Speaker).