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”.