From The Denver Post (Mark Jaffe):
The task force handpicked by Gov. John Hickenlooper to defuse the clash between residential communities and oil and gas drillers is set to hold its first meeting Thursday in Denver. The charge for the 21-member panel, which includes two chairpeople, is to develop recommendations on balancing state and local control of oil and gas drilling that can be turned into legislation.
Contending that wells are getting too close to homes, some Front Range municipalities have adopted local ordinances or bans and moratoriums on drilling. The state has sued the communities, saying only it can regulate drilling and has won district court judgments against Fort Collins, Longmont and Lafayette.
“The people who are at the table are really looking for compromise,” said task force member Will Toor, a former Boulder mayor and Boulder County commissioner.
The panel will have six months to work, and any recommendation will need to pass by a two-thirds vote.
At Thursday’s meeting, the group is expected to review existing state and local controls on drilling and have an initial discussion about the key issues. There will be a period for public comment from 4 to 6 p.m. at Colorado Parks and Wildlife offices at 6060 Broadway.
The panel was convened as part of a compromise brokered by the governor that removed four oil-and-gas-related initiatives from the November ballot. Two were backed by industry, and two that focused on bolstering local control and kept drilling rigs away from homes were supported by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder.
On Sept. 9, Hickenlooper issued an executive order outlining the issues the panel needs to address such as air quality and the siting of wells near homes and in floodplains.
“The question is: What will the task force focus on?” said Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, a trade group. Dempsey is not a task force member.
The task force is being chaired by La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt and Randy Cleveland, president of XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of ExxonMobil. The task force includes six members representing economic interests. Of those, four are oil and gas industry executives and one each are from the homebuilding and agriculture sectors. There are six task force members representing conservation and homeowner groups, as well as local officials. Hickenlooper also chose seven civic leaders who do not have a direct interest in the issue, including retired Colorado Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Kourlis.
“I hope we can inform legislation,” said Sara Barwinski, a member of the task force and the grassroots group Weld Air and Water.
“If all the parties respectfully listen and put their cards on the table and realize this has to be addressed,” she said. “I am full of hope we can come up with a concrete recommendation.”
More oil and gas coverage here.