Hickenlooper Tightening Belt on COGCC

Today it was a good day. I found out our Governor, John Hickenlooper, who is known for his business savvy, just issued an executive order tightening the reigns on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. See, the problem has been a conflict of interest in the mission of the agency. They are supposed to develop mineral rights, while also enforcing regulations that protect public health and environment. Let’s just put it this way, after months of in-depth research, I decided the agency is more focused on developing mineral rights than they are with protecting anything (other than the industry). Looking at the members of the board, they are all pro-industry. This means nobody cares about the public health and environment, they just do what is necessary to stay under the radar and make some serious money.

People are sick of it.
Enough people have stood up and made a stink that the COGCC is now being held responsible for their favoritism of industry. Even more amazing is that pro-money Hickenlooper is backing the public on this one, maybe that’s also a good business (ahem political) move.

The COGCC is instructed to review and adjust their regulatory framework, especially fines. Here are a couple of my favorite (emphasized by me) sections:

“The COGCC must structure these adjustments so as to hold the oil and gas industry to the highest operating standards in the nation for protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including the environment and wildlife resources.”

My favorite is item (6) of the penalty rules they are ordered to construct: “Make certain that any economic incentives for noncompliance with the Act and its regulations are eliminated.”

This is the biggest problem I think. There are rules, sure, of course there have always been rules. The agency doesn’t always (nor usually) enforce the rules, let’s just say they are a little “understaffed”. The amount of wells being drilled compared to the amount of people working in the agency who monitor or enforce regulations, sincerely reflects the agencies priorities. They say they can’t keep up, but on the same token, if they enforced the rules and imposed the penalties and fines accordingly, they would have more funding for staff to enforce regulations. If half the staff shifted to monitoring, rather than, I don’t know, say, approving new permits… The COGCC would be a completely different environment.

On a side note, but a very serious issue to be clear on. Mineral rights are separate from land rights. One person can own the surface, another “person” can own the minerals beneath it. Mineral rights trump land rights. This means the person who owns the mineral rights has to be allowed access to fully develop their right. In other words, if someone owns the mineral rights below your property they can pull permits with the COGCC to develop them whether or not you cooperate. Your land must be restored to it’s original condition to the best of their ability, but also “within reason”.

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2013 Drought Burden

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U.S. Drought Monitor March 12, 2013

Water is a major topic in Colorado. We are a headwater state, meaning water originates here and flows downward. Western states rely on compacts and treaties with CO entitling them to a reasonable portion of all waters flowing naturally through their states. States to the east of Colorado also rely on water from all rivers flowing towards the Mississippi. Let’s not forget the groundwater systems relied upon by midwestern agriculture are recharged by seepage and flow from rivers originating in Colorado, too.
Colorado has a responsibility to the rest of our country to be good environmental stewards as water pollution, consumption and usage affect the entire country. The way we chose to treat the environment as it relates to water flowing from Colorado impacts the nations food supply, fuel production, and human health.

What happens when there just isn’t enough to go around? I was born and raised in Colorado, you better believe we were taught from the outset not to waste. Every year around this time, the snowpack reports begin to create anxiousness and nervousness for Colorado residents, which is a growing population. What are going to be the drought restrictions this year? Will my grass die ( even though we probably shouldn’t have grass but it is a free country)? etc. It seems as though every year is a drought, should we begin worrying about the apocolypse?

One thing to think about is just how wasteful is wasting water? For example, if you leave the faucet on while you brush your teeth (big no-no), does the water just disappear down the drain? No. It doesn’t just disappear. It goes back to the same source it originated from, the water treatment plant (WTP). They got it from your local source (we should all know the source of our local water supply but most don’t), and the water is treated again because it is effluent- dirty. It will end back up in the water system as it is discharged from the plant. Every drop either evaporates or makes its happy little way downstream, eventually recharging water supplies, and used again by someone else for something else. So this makes me wonder, is it really wasted? Not in the sense that the water is gone. But it is wasteful in the sense that the WTP must consume energy to filter and clean the water coming through your drains.

Which brings up another topic. The most wasteful user of natural resources is “industry”. Highest energy consumers, water demanders, and produce the most pollution. We will shelve this one for another article, or 5.

Ask yourself this- Would it be wasting water if we polluted a LOT of it with a LOT of very harmful chemicals, and then dug deep holes in the ground, and then buried storage tanks with this polluted water? And they say natural gas is the answer, drill baby drill.

Back to what we can do for ourselves… are there ways for households to use their water wisely? Absolutely. Vegetable gardening is a great way to use your water supply to reduce the nations food supply burden, and recharge those groundwater systems the local agriculture economy is relying on. There is of course, no reason to over use this precious resource, but if we use it wisely we won’t need as much. I mean, after all, the fountains in Las Vegas wouldn’t be so pretty if all grew our own vegetables… Which reminds me, it’s time to start seeds!

What are you going to do this year to relieve the nation’s drought burden?