Paula NoonanPaula NoonanMay 31, 20175min453

Both “sides” in the arguments over oil and gas development say the other is “taking advantage” of the explosions in Firestone and Mead. This should not be a time for sides. This should be a time for serious analysis. It can also provide an opening that should, for the sake of everyone in the state, cut through sides to allow common sense to function. Both accidents caused violent fire and explosions leading to death and serious injuries in non-industrial environments. The Mead accident occurred 1,000 feet from other buildings, according to reports. The Firestone explosion blew up a house as a pipe leaked gas that followed French drains into the Martinez’s basement.

Joey BunchJoey BunchMay 24, 20174min1409

Environmentalists are asking the heads of the state health department and Department of Natural Resources to pressure the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to reconsider its vote to appeal a court decision on drilling permits.

The commission voted on May 1 to appeal a court decision that says they need to balance public health and safety against requests for permits by oil and gas operators. That decision was part of Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s rationale to file an appeal in the case brought by teenagers and backed by environmental groups.

The way they read the law, the attorney general needs the commission’s approval to appeal its rules to the state Supreme Court. Getting the commission to withdraw its May 1 vote, then, would be a strategic advantage.

The lawsuit was filed in 2013 by six Colorado teenagers asking that the oil and gas regulators to use a “balancing test” to measure public health and safety against the wishes of industry. In March the state Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to have the board reconsider the environmentalists’ request.

By doing so, they would suspend fracking operations while the teens, or the environmental groups backing them, make a case for how such a rule might be applied.

After Coffman said she would press ahead with an appeal, Earthjustice and Conservation Colorado sent a letter Friday asking for an intervention from the commission’s ex-officio members, Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Bob Randall, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

Neither responded to a personal e-mail from Colorado Politics to see if they would ask the commission to reconsider.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has somewhat agreed with the environmentalists, saying last week he didn’t think the commission should appeal, because it already substantially does what the lawsuit requests.

His office isn’t onboard with the request by environmentalists to apply pressure on the commission via his state agency leaders, however.

“We have made our position in this matter well-known and believe that it would be inappropriate to apply pressure on this commission to take further action,” said Hickenlooper’s spokeswoman, Jacque Montgomery. “We ask respected civic leaders to serve on our boards and commissions to exercise their independent judgment, and we value and respect their service.”

The governor also said last week that the commission’s vote didn’t constitute seeking the authority for an appeal.

We are frankly perplexed as to why the Governor’s administration has not already taken such a step instead of pursuing the unusual approach of asking the Attorney General to disregard the COGCC’s May 1 decision,” wrote Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado, and Earthjustice lawyer Michael Freeman.

“If the Governor is serious in stating that ‘the court of appeals’ decision does not represent a significant departure from the commission’s current approach,’ it would have been straightforward to simply call for another COGCC vote to reconsider the appeal.”


John TomasicJohn TomasicApril 19, 201715min467

In Colorado, the rule is that oil and gas wells can be sited 1,000 feet from a school building. A bill that aimed to update that rule to measure the setback instead from the school property line drew crowds to the Capitol this month to testify in support of it and major drilling industry figures to argue against it. In the end, there were no surprises concerning its fate. Oil and gas drilling has long been a top partisan issue at the Legislature.


John TomasicJohn TomasicMarch 17, 20175min531

"Yeah, it seems like they don't like it that much," said state Rep. Mike Foote on Thursday. He was talking about the oil and gas industry's view of his new drilling setback bill. Foote's <a href="" target="_blank">House Bill 1256</a> would clarify that the minimum 1,000-foot distance separating schools from new oil and gas wells must be measured from the school property line, not from the school building. Foote, a Democrat from Lafayette and a Boulder County deputy district attorney, has taken up the issue of suburban drilling on the northern Front Range repeatedly at the Legislature, only to run into stiff resistance from the industry and Republican lawmakers. He said he has been in preliminary communication with the industry about his bill.

Joey BunchJoey BunchMarch 14, 20173min4927
Rep. Mike Foote plans to throw the latest punch as early as Tuesday in the ongoing fight over fracking near schools in the northeast metro region. After courts have upheld existing laws allowing wells to operate within 1,000 feet of schools, home sand other public buildings, Foote wants to “clarify” that that means the property […]

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Ramsey ScottRamsey ScottApril 5, 201611min387

Democrats at the Legislature who represent Front Range communities at the center of the war over oil and gas drilling are pushing proposals that would grant local authorities more power over drilling operations. Their efforts are winning headlines and generating social media fireworks even as they run up against firm bipartisan opposition.