Who is that man behind the curtain trying to fool? I suppose it’s the “uninformed voter.” Or perhaps it’s those who believe television and radio commercials. Or maybe it’s piggybacking on the groundwork that has been so tirelessly laid by Republicans to scare the bejesus out of the population.
We’re going to have gasoline that costs $10 a gallon. My shower is going to run cold. I’m going to need a half dozen blankets to stay warm in the winter. I’m going to cook in my home in the hot summer. No. No. NO NO NO NO NO!
Or maybe he doesn’t even care if we’re fooled. Maybe it’s a matter of creating a political trail for additional campaign contributions. Or maybe its groundwork for higher office. Just think of the power of the presidency, especially if you have a like-minded, bought-and-paid-for Congress who won’t stand in your way. Mighty stimulating, wouldn’t you say?
Heads-up, Governor Hickenlooper, there is enough of us out here in Colorado and along the Front Range who will make it a mission to see to it that you are not successful – regardless of your motive. We value our rights to health, safety and welfare; and we intend to protect them. Make no mistake, our call is clarion.
How often has your phone rung over the last five or six months? And who was on the other end of those calls? Let me guess. Tisha Schuller (Executive Director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association)? Stan Dempsey (President of the Colorado Petroleum Association). David Neslin (Director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) or his newly-appointed clone. Any number of CEO’s from the major oil and gas companies that are drilling and fracking throughout Colorado.
And just why might they have pressed the panic button? Could it be that several Colorado counties, towns and cities have said, “Hold on now. Wait just a @#$%^&* minute! We don’t want no damned drillin’ and frackin’ by our homes, our schools, our parks, our reservoirs. Just who the hell do you guys think you are?”
Senator Ted Harvey’s bill (SB12-088) which would have removed all local control over oil and gas drilling fell flat on its hideous face in the Local Government Committee of the Senate with the help of a packed room full of Colorado citizens who were furious, disgusted and legitimately fearful.
Your buddies in the House—yes, the REPUBLICAN House and YOU a Democrat – slapped down local-control efforts and reaffirmations and even killed severance disclosure. All this even though the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is already nothing more than a shill for the oil and gas industry. That still wasn’t good enough.
You had to make damned sure that a rowdy public – growing in numbers by the hours, days and months – didn’t get any traction, much less results.
Frackenlooper digs in against communities
So along comes your Executive Order, Governor John Hickenlooper, an order to create a “Task Force on Cooperative Strategies Regarding State and Local Regulation of Oil and Gas Development.”
You remind us in your order of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act and its authority, but never mention that the COGCC’s main mission is to facilitate oil and gas development in the state with barely an afterthought to the subservient portion of public health, safety and welfare.
You speak to case law as if we are to accept that matters of rulemaking are essentially settled law. But you give away a secret. The industry doesn’t want to go to court and litigate, on a case-by-case basis, what is or is not a local regulation that is in “operational conflict” with state regulations. As you state, “Parties hesitate to pursue resolution in court because proving operational conflict is an adversarial, cumbersome, time consuming, and expensive process.” (Readers, take note where the burden lies in the above quote.)
So you want everyone to play nice on the playground and work “collaboratively.” We know how to read that, Governor Hickenlooper. You’re going to have the task force pretend to listen, pretend to accommodate the public, and to delay, delay, delay while the COGCC diddles around over process and the development of the role of the Local Government Designee until the operators get as many drills in the ground as they can and then the entire issue becomes MOOT.
And then there’s the matter of the make-up of your Task Force. Kangaroo Court is the phrase that comes to mind. It goes well beyond the balance, or rather imbalance, of the categories themselves to the biases of the actual appointees. And I see a stacked jury. I see two, maybe three, at the most four, of the chosen ones who actually will represent the people, local communities and the environment. And here might be a good place to insert the comment made by Department of Natural Resources Director Mike King, the task force chair, that there is not enough time to work through everything and come to a consensus. Translation: The answers will be by majority and the majority is predetermined.
I’ll give you this much, Governor Hickenlooper, the scope of the task force as outlined in your Executive Order is admirable. You’ve got Mission. You’ve got Substance. You’ve got Process.
Some pretty important stuff is delineated under the substance portion of the order. Things like setbacks and other restrictions on location of oil and gas wells and production facilities. Things like floodplain restrictions, noise abatement and dust management. Things like protection of wildlife and livestock. And air quality. And then there are operational methods, perhaps like closed-loop systems. And traffic. And financial assurances. And there’s also inspection and fees.
Oh, but there’s a hitch in this git-along. We’ve already got jury instructions and they’ve pretty much skipped right over that substancy thing. So, no, Governor Hickenlooper, it’s not working for us.
Mr. King, as with any good bureaucrat, is most interested in process not substance. He’ll leave that stuff to the big boys over at COGCC. He’s already predetermined that there will be two subcommittees: one on “development of a process for local concerns to be brought to the COGCC through the Local Government Designee,” and the second on protocols and training for local inspectors (though not enforcers).
And then there’s King’s Part 3. He admits that the reason the matter of oil and gas drilling has such visibility throughout Colorado is the issue of jurisdiction. He admits that it is likely to be the most controversial. Oh, but wait. He says that “maybe it’s the least important.” How can that be, you might ask. Well you see, he’s already figured out that the first two will provide the itty bitty local governments an opportunity to request (not necessarily be granted) a VARIANCE from state standards. These variance requests will be neatly, pat-on-the-head neatly, “considered” by the COGCC.
And with that, and only an hour into the meeting, Mr. King set up weekly meetings for Thursdays, between 9 AM and Noon and postponed subcommittee selection until the next meeting on March 15. Go figure. All this foot-draggin’ and the the task force is supposed to report back to Governor Hickenlooper in a mere six weeks.
And then there’s this. There may a glitch on audio streaming of the meetings. If the full task force has to meet in a different room, it probably will have audio streaming. But the same cannot be said of the subcommittee meetings. Well, golly gee, isn’t that special. Whatever guts and glory there might be in these proceedings may actually be conducted behind closed doors at least for those who are unable to trek all the way into Denver to sit and listen.
Governor Hickenlooper, you’re off to a very poor start. But then you didn’t mean for this effort to be genuine in the first place. Now did you?