Opinion

Give legislature credit for bipartisan efforts enhancing oil and gas regs

Author: Scott Prestidge - May 11, 2018 - Updated: May 11, 2018

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Scott Prestidge

Democrats and Republicans working together, conservationists and industry jointly testifying in support of legislation, and progress for the state of Colorado and its citizens. It’s hard to believe given the political discord that dominates our airwaves, but it actually happened. In fact, more than once. With what seems to be the media hot-button topic of late: oil and natural gas development.

It’s true. And here’s how.

Last year, a painful experience left a profound mark on our member companies, on an important Front Range oil and gas community, and sadly, on a young Colorado family. Not a week goes by within our industry that the tragic Firestone accident is not referenced in some way. It has shaped us.

Industry responded to the accident in a fashion that makes me proud to work in Colorado’s energy business. Without hesitation, companies across Colorado went through a detailed process of testing more than 120,000 flowlines, to make sure there were no other severed or broken pipelines presenting a similar risk to our communities. Thankfully, they were able to confirm that it was an anomaly, and that people were safe.

But that was only the first step, as an extensive stakeholder process and multi-month-long rulemaking was conducted by our state oversight agency, to prevent that type of accident from taking place again.

Colorado now has far and away the toughest and most comprehensive flowline regulations in the country. Still, industry did not stop there, as it made a concerted effort to push for new laws at the Capitol. Of course, we will always fight back against bills designed to be political statements rather than effective policy decisions, as well as against those who want nothing more than to put us out of business.

Fortunately, a blessing of divided government, with both Republicans and Democrats controlling different chambers of our Colorado Assembly, is the inherent requirement to work together if you want to move an idea or policy forward. It’s arguably the American founders’ greatest residual mark on our society. After nearly 250 years, the American experiment still works best when both parties see the importance of issues that need their attention, they draw in various stakeholders to inform the discussion, and they find a way to work together.

…(T)he American experiment still works best when both parties see the importance of issues that need their attention, they draw in various stakeholders to inform the discussion, and they find a way to work together.

Divided government proved its worth yet again in 2018, as we saw bipartisan legislation passed to strengthen Colorado’s 811, one-call system, establishing rigorous requirements for any excavation, as well as new fining and enforcement authority. We saw bipartisan support that led to increases in stationary air permits for our industry, to make sure our state health department is properly funded and capable of high operational standards. We saw bipartisan support for the diversification of the Colorado Energy Office, so that it better reflects the important work taking place by a number of energy sectors. We also saw bipartisan support for the expansion of new waste disposal requirements, adding additional protections and assurances. And finally, we saw the improvement of outdated oil and natural gas pooling laws, bringing them into the 21st century, and providing new, more transparent public notification requirements.

Our oil and natural gas industry supported, testified, and fought for these new laws. It was the right thing to do, and I’m proud of the fact that we took a significant step forward in an election year, when good intentions are typically dismissed.

To that end, I want to thank our legislators, Republican and Democrat alike, who gave voters important successes that will resonate for years to come. New policies and laws that mean Coloradans are safer, that our regulatory system is improved, and that Colorado’s citizens have new protections, rights and services that did not exist before.

Certainly, there will be future political arguments, both small and large. But there are moments when we should pause, reflect on the good work that’s been accomplished, and be grateful. It’s been said many times, Colorado has the most innovative and highly regulated oil and natural gas industry in the nation. Knowing the leaders within our industry as I do, as long as well-intended efforts are designed for improvement, rather than a political talking point or an effort to end the existence of one of our most important social and economic drivers, we will be at the table. I’ve witnessed that commitment firsthand, and I know you can count on it.

Scott Prestidge

Scott Prestidge

Scott Prestidge is director of communications and public affairs for the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.