A closeup of hill construction sign and pump jack drilling for oil isolated against sky in Rangely.

County comments on oil and gas rulemaking request

Environmental groups’ petition would effectively ban oil and gas development in Colorado

November 22, 2021

Garfield County has provided comments to a rulemaking petition filed by several environmental groups seeking to “adopt rules to evaluate and address cumulative air impacts” and address environmental justice concerns. In a letter to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the county recommended rejection of the petition and associated rulemaking, noting that the proposed rules would greatly impact oil and gas development throughout much of the state.

The petition, which was filed by WildEarth Guardians, 350 Colorado, Womxn from the Mountain, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Larimer Alliance, and Sierra Club, asks the COGCC to create new rules to “address cumulative impacts of the oil and gas industry.” It asks that any area of Colorado that has experienced a 1.5-degree Celsius increase in temperature due to “global warming” be off-limits to oil and gas development.

Kirby Wynn, Garfield County oil and gas liaison, told the Board of County Commissioners that, if approved and supported, the petition’s ask would effectively ban new oil and gas development and production in Garfield County and much of Colorado.

“That is what the petition asks for: It would be a de facto ban on oil and gas development,” he told the board. “In the petition, they’re really asking the COGCC to step out of its lane and take on roles, as well as the expertise and ability to handle the technical issues, that historically have been with the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).”

In the comment letter, the county further argues that the petition exceeds the COGCC’s authority by ignoring Oil and Gas Conservation Act’s multiple goals, and that the petition is redundant since commission is already addressing cumulative impacts. It’s also noted that CDPHE is already addressing air quality and environmental justice issues.

“COGCC is meeting its stated intent and obligation to address cumulative impacts via current mission change rule requirements and by collecting data to better understand the issues in a manner that will more optimally inform a future rulemaking to further strengthen reasonable and necessary cumulative impact protections within the regulatory authority and technical ability of the commission,” the letter notes.

Commissioner Mike Samson said the groups’ petition is an attempt to kill off the oil and gas industry in Colorado.

“To me, that is such a foolish thing to do,” he said. “I want to appeal to the common sense of people in this state who are in positions of power, to stop and think, and analyze what they are doing to this state. This is another example of people trying to destroy things we need for a high quality of life.”

“We can’t have energy independence in this country if we’re shutting down natural gas production in Colorado,” added Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “Energy independence makes our country stronger, both geopolitically and by helping to reduce inflation.”

The board approved the comment letter unanimously, 3-0. All public comment to the COGCC is due by Dec. 2, and the commission is meeting on Dec. 9 in Denver to discuss the matter.