On Friday, February 27, 2015, the Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force issued its final report presenting nine recommendations to Governor John Hickenlooper. The 21 member task force, including representatives of energy, environmental and government interests, was formed in the months leading up to the November 2014 election. At that time, several oil and gas questions appeared headed to the statewide ballot. If passed, they would have effectively shut down or severely inhibited drilling in Colorado. After five months of meetings and public outreach throughout the state, the group narrowed its proposals to nine recommendations.
When creating the task force, the Governor was hopeful that the results produced by this body might prevent further ballot measures from appearing in the 2016 election cycle. And with both the oil and gas industry and environmental activists hesitant to declare the various proposals as truly strengthening each of their respective positions, it seems possible a true compromise was reached. It should be noted that the nine recommendations represent only those proposals which received the requisite two-thirds majority vote, while remaining proposals which received a simple-majority are included in a minority report also presented for the Governor’s review.
Among the nine proposed recommendations, two create a process by which local residents and local government entities can be involved in the process regarding the size and location of drilling pads in residential areas. Other recommendations propose funding for additional full-time employee positions at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as well as at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment with the intent to further monitor existing wells sites to ensure compliance with air quality compliance and other regulatory standards.
And while many of the remaining six proposals offer more modest changes, including the establishment of an oil and gas information clearinghouse in the Colorado Energy Office, these proposed recommendations represent enhancements to current state regulatory standards which many consider to be among the most stringent in the country with regard to the exploration and development of oil and gas. Nonetheless, it remains unclear whether the recommendations of the task force will prevent interest groups from pursuing proposed ballot measures for the 2016 election.