2011 Colorado legislation: The General Assembly will start work on Wednesday

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Bump and update: Here’s a report on last week’s meeting between Republican legislators and business groups, from Randy Woock writing for The Trinidad Times. From the article:

The roundtable discussion, hosted by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry in downtown Denver, was described by State Senate Majority Leader Mike Kopp as an opportunity for industry leaders to share their ideas on how best to minimize government hindrances to their operations. “We’re concerned about job growth in our state…we want to have more businesses hiring more people and more people investing more capital,” Kopp said. “Republicans in the Senate have put out there an aspirational goal: achieving a 15 percent reduction in the compliance costs for regulated businesses…we want to drive down the costs for regulated businesses of doing business, operating here in the State of Colorado because we recognize (that) the more you have on the bottom line, the more likely you are to hire that next employee or to extend your operation.”[…]

Tisha Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, pointed to the economic impacts of the oil and gas industry, in addition to voicing concerns about industry taxes and federal and local oversight. “We are aware, as everyone is, of the potential $1 billion budget deficit (faced by the state government), and we must ensure that Colorado remain a business friendly, low tax state; any discussion of tax reform, we want to make sure that we’re at the table,” Schuller said. “Oil and gas companies pay over 90 percent (of severance taxes in Colorado)…Colorado has world-class oil and gas reserves, but we cannot take investment here for granted, and the last two years have really shown that.” Adding, “We’ve seen companies flee Colorado for reserves in other states, not because those reserves are any better, but because the perception was that Colorado was closing down for business. And the tax environment and the regulatory environment are the two key pieces of that.”

The massive slowdown of industry activity in Las Animas County actually began in Fall 2008 due to a drop in commodity prices months before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) controversial regulatory overhaul was completed and approved by the state in Spring 2009. As reported by the Canadian industry group, The Fraser Institute, in its 2010 Global Petroleum Survey, energy executives rank Colorado 61 out of 81 worldwide locations for favorable energy investments, up from its rank of 52 in 2008…

Schuller also expressed concern last Wednesday about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) impending study on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water resources, stating that the industry preferred “state primacy” for regulatory enforcement. “Sometimes to have the smallest, most efficient government, you need to strongly place authority in the state’s hands, and we would like to see that with the (COGCC)…the federal government is showing interest in regulating hydraulic fracturing — something that is regulated at every step at that level,” she said. “We see the same thing with air regulations, that we’ve been having encroaching, growing potential for EPA to increase (oversight).”

Schuller also named as a “potential threat” oversight at the local levels of government. “Local governments want to become mini-Oil and Gas Conservation Commissions through their planning process…they’re taking increasing authority over oil and gas development, and this is a huge concern,” she said. “If a company is going to invest in Colorado, they need to have the certainty that they have one set of rules to operate under.”[…]

Pioneer Natural Resources, the largest employer in Las Animas County at 460 reported employees, was not present at last Wednesday’s roundtable discussion, but the company was contacted by The Times Independent for its desired changes to Colorado’s oil and gas regulations…

Regarding water issues in the state, Pioneer requested that the various regulatory bodies tasked with oversight on industry impacts to water resources — such as the State Engineer’s Office, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the COGCC — collaborate to “seek innovative solutions to wed the state water issues and needs with the capability of the industry to produce water.”

Adding, “Break down administrative and regulatory barriers to viewing [coalbed methane] water as a resource, rather than as a waste product.” The company also suggested that since CBM had been “the target of additional regulations related to gas seep monitoring” that applied only to CBM-based operations, “The need for some of the rules, and the fairness of requiring natural gas operators to shoulder the cost of studies unrelated to CBM development (e.g. coal mine gas seep surveys), needs to be re-evaluated.”

Pioneer also requested that industry be involved “proposed permit revisions and draft policy changes,” using as examples the COGCC pit-fencing draft policy and discharge permits on the Apishapa watershed. “Reach out to all landowners, not just landowners who complain,” Sheffield stated. “Formalize the complaint process where definitive steps and procedures are followed to assess the complaint validity and ensure the complaint has a solid scientific base; then only proceed on modifying polices, rules, and laws for complaints based on sound science and data.”

Using pit closure rules as an example, Pioneer also requested that the COGCC and other state agencies review its regulations and policies in order to, “See that the paperwork and preliminary field costs associated with the rule/policy do not exceed the actual costs of implementing the proposed rule…(and) conduct an objective, third-party cost-benefit analysis of new proposed rules and regulations.”

From the Colorado Statesman (Marianne Goodland):

Water issues won’t be on his plate in the 2011 session, [House Minority Leader Sal Pace] said.

Here’s a recap of last week’s sit-down between Republican legislators and, “business groups, ” to discuss, “regulatory reform and [review] the Independence Institute’s proposals on how to solve the state’s budget woes,” from Marianne Goodland writing for the Colorado Statesman. From the article:

The contractors, represented by Mike Gifford of the Association of General Contractors, asked for changes in four areas: retention of payments for public projects, which affects cash flow; storm water regulations; sales and use tax expansion, much of it by local governments; and contractor licensing and registration, a problem that requires contractors to be licensed by multiple local governments and the state. “We need a common system of license and registration,” Gifford pleaded.

More coverage from Marianne Goodland writing for The Fort Morgan Times. From the article:

[First-time legislator Rep. Jon Becker…who represents House District 63], like any legislator, can carry five bills in the session, and he`s looking at a bill to reduce the size of government by combining departments. He`s also interested in legislation on water storage, and is looking for funds from the Division of Wildlife that would go to the Colorado Water Conservation Board…

“Getting these departments to play well together on this issue will be the hard part,” he said, but the state is way behind in dealing with water storage issues. And he believes that using DOW money for water storage matches its mission. “I don`t want to hurt hunters, [or have people think he`s taking DOW money for agricultural purposes] but as long as we benefit wildlife with water storage, that can be another purpose” of those dollars, he said. The bill carries a sunset provision that will end the transfer in 10 years, which he says will be standard in his bills…

[Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg,…of HD 65 has been tapped to play several leadership roles in the 2011 session. Sonnenberg is the new chair of the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. also plans to carry a sunset review bill that applies to weather modification in water conservation districts.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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