Foote: Oil and gas industry should have to play same rules as others
By Mike Foote
POSTED: 03/19/2016 05:00:00 PM MDT
The oil and gas industry has spent millions of dollars in Colorado over the last several years on an ad campaign portraying the industry as a collection of fourth-generation Colorado tree-huggers whose highest priorities are preserving an unspoiled environment and getting along with their neighbors.
The reality on the ground is somewhat different.
This is how the system currently works: An oil and gas company decides where it wants to drill. It then goes to the state and gets a permit, a permit that is never denied. With state permit in hand, the company goes to the local government and demands access consistent with its state permit. If the local government or residents resist, the company threatens litigation.
Litigation, of course, is the opposite of cooperation. Yet that is what oil and gas industry representatives threaten, time after time after time, whenever residents and their local governments attempt to use local zoning procedures to get a say in where the drill rigs are located.
A company’s “consultation” with local residents and their city councils or county commissions on siting decisions generally amounts to the company telling residents where they are going to drill ahead of time. Many times that means in the middle of a neighborhood or near a school.
Impacted residents are cut out of this process. They naturally go to their local elected officials to express their opinions, only to be told there is little that can be done.
No other industry in Colorado has that kind of power. Oil and gas is the only industry that has been exempted, by law, from the local zoning process, where local residents have input about land-use decisions in their neighborhoods.
Oil and gas companies should be treated just like any other industry. Along with state Rep. Su Ryden and Sens. Jessie Ulibarri and Matt Jones, I have introduced House Bill 1355 to affirm the ability of local residents and their own elected officials to have meaningful input in the location of oil and gas operations. They get a say, just like they do for every other industrial activity.
The current state-dominated system works very well for the oil and gas industry. It doesn’t work so well for neighborhoods where the drilling occurs. Over the last several years, people from all around Colorado have spoken in task force hearings, rule-making hearings and legislative committee hearings about large drilling operations just a few hundred feet from their front doors.
Yet they are offered no meaningful answer. Instead, business continues as usual, and many Coloradans are told to simply deal with it.
Residents in affected neighborhoods and their local representatives should have a say where oil and gas facilities are located. Let’s get rid of the oil and gas industry’s special exemption and treat it the same as everyone else.
State Rep. Mike Foote’s House District 12 includes eastern Boulder County. He lives in Lafayette.
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