The gubernatorial task force charged with reducing land-use and local-control conflicts over oil and gas drilling in Colorado identified health, technology and legal issues it wants to examine. At their first meeting in September, panel members agreed that before moving forward, they need more information and must clearly define the problem. "If we can't agree on what the problems are, it will really be difficult to come to solutions," said panel member Bruce Rau, chairman of the Colorado Association of Home Builders. The charge for the 21-member panel – handpicked by Gov. John Hickenlooper – is to develop recommendations for balancing state and local control of oil and gas drilling that may be turned into legislation. The task force received briefings from state and local officials on existing regulation of the oil and gas industry. "The more you look, you realize that a lot has been done," said panel member Russ George, former director of the state Department of Natural Resources. "What we need to do for our time is to focus on the problems that are not being solved today." "(The issue is) horizontal drilling and lots of wells going in near people," said Jeff Robbins, a Western Slope attorney on the panel.
The use of horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing, or fracking, has set off a Front Range oil boom.
"These are superwells," said attorney Matt Sura, a panel member who represents homeowners and municipalities. "They look more like a refinery." Advertisement
While agreeing that the horizontal wells – which can run nearly 2 miles underground – are a recent phenomenon, technology also is helping to reduce the impact of drilling, said panel member Brad Holly, a vice president at Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Panel member Sara Barwinski, a member of the grassroots group Weld Air and Water, said: "The public is really concerned about health and safety."
The task force agreed it needs more information on health issues, the technology used by the industry, what other states and their local governments are doing on oil and gas issues, and details on the legal issues of local control and surface and mineral rights and agreements.
The task force was created by Hickenlooper as part of a compromise that removed initiatives from the November ballot aimed at giving communities more control over drilling. The panel must make its recommendations by the end of February. Any recommendation must be passed by a two-thirds vote.