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Proposed House Bill would stack the deck for oil & gas companies

by Bill Knowles
LA VETA- The documentary “Gasland” was shown at the La Veta Community Center on April 2 to around 30 people. It was part of outreach program hosted by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club which included the documentary, a presentation by Tracy Dahl, and a discussion of proposed House Bill 1223.
Gopa Ross, the Oil and Gas Conservation Issue Chair for the RMC Sierra Club, along with Conservation Co-Chair Kirby Hughes presented the movie and moderated the question and answer period.
The documentary is about coal bed methane and natural gas extraction and looks at the impact hydraulic fracturing—a process used in gas extraction—poses to the natural and human environment. “Fracking,” as the…

process is called, is used by all gas exploration companies including Pioneer Natural Resources, Petroglyph Operating Inc., and Shell Oil.
Tracy Dahl from the North Fork Ranch in Las Animas County spoke next. He sought to prove to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in February 2011 that a hydraulic fracturing operation near his property in June of 2010 caused contamination of the well on his property.
Dahl was seeking a judgement from the COGCC against Pioneer for the incident. Pioneer maintains that the distance from the fracture zone to Dahl’s well was 1,283 feet and that a “frack” on average extends 150 to 200 feet horizontally and about 30 feet vertically. Dahl said that the COGCC ruling against him “…is an example of a regulatory agency standing with an industry it is supposed to regulate.”
The COGCC investigates water contamination, prescribes remediation practices, and issues fines. The COGCC’s mission statement says that their mission “… is to foster the responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas natural resources.” On their website, they state, “…responsible development results in, the efficient exploration and production of oil and gas resources in a manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety and welfare.”
A discussion of House Bill 1223 followed. If passed, HB 1223 would change the makeup of the COGCC and give additional voice to the oil and gas industry, a very influential industry in the state. HB1223 is currently being considered by the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee. A hearing began on March 30 and continued on April 4. If the bill passes out of committee, it will go to the entire House of Representatives for consideration, then to the Senate.
The bill calls for the board of the COGCC to be reduced from nine members to seven and calls for an increase in the proportion of industry representation along with specifying the type of experience required for certain industry members. Of the seven members, five must have substantial experience in the oil and gas industry with three of the five holding college degrees and having demonstrated technical expertise in the industry. The other two of the five must have recent practical field experience in the oil and gas industry.
The last two of the seven members are required to have formal training or substantial experience in environmental or wildlife protection. One member shall have formal training experience in soil conservation or reclamation. And one must be actively engaged in agricultural production. The member actually engaged in agricultural production must also be a royalty owner in the industry. According to Dahl, “It’s a stacked deck.