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Strong Support for Responsible Oil and Natural Gas Development at COGCC Public Hearing

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Industry workers, elected officials, business representatives, and community members were out in full force at a recent Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission public hearing to support responsible oil and natural gas development in the state and underscore the economic and environmental benefits of energy production.

The COGCC is undertaking an extensive rulemaking under SB-181, the law passed last year overhauling industry regulations focusing heavily on public safety. Last week, commissioners of the new fulltime, professional COGCC spoke at the Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s Annual Energy Summit and said its rulemaking process would emphasize “collaboration” and “certainty” for industry, communities, local governments, and other stakeholders.

This week’s hearing consisted of more than six hours of public comments with a wide range of voices supporting oil and natural gas production, including Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Diane Schwenke, who emphasized the need for local control and the importance of the industry for the region’s economy and tax base:

 “We’re a unique city and we love it. We’re a regional hub for many industries and the energy industry is an important and longstanding piece of our economy and our community. … I implore you to be thoughtful and not forget about us over here on the Western Slope, which has historically powered our state and region with safe, reliable, and affordable natural gas. Our way of life is important to each and every one of us and the oil and gas industry has contributed to that way of life with jobs and tax dollars that fund elements like our schools and first responders.”

Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese echoed Schwenke’s comments and said it’s possible to produce energy and protect communities and the environment:

“Western Colorado is not the Front Range, and we shouldn’t be policed like we are. We are in the best position as elected local government officials to deal with our neighboring counties and municipalities to support energy development in a very responsible way. … We need to have a good balance between our high-paying jobs that support our community and protecting our people and the environment. I don’t think it’s an “either/or” decision. I think you can do both, you just need to bring balance to the table.

Jack Hamlin, who works in the industry, emphasized the environmental progress made over the years and why oil and natural gas is so important in Colorado with its extreme weather swings:

“I love Colorado, I’ve been here my whole life. I’ve watched the population balloon since 1978 and today our air and water is cleaner than any other time in my life. The truth is that everyone on this call uses oil and natural gas because it makes our life better and it protects us from Colorado’s climate, which has been a dangerous place to live whether its extreme weather, blizzards, fires, or draughts.

Sharon Zamora, another industry employee, offered further testimony on the environmental gains even as oil and natural gas production has increased:

“I’ve worked in the industry for over 35 years and I’m proud of what I do for a living. I’m also proud of the steps the industry has made over the past 35 years to reduce emissions and make the workplace safer. I’m proud between 2011 and 2017, per the [RACQ and CDPHE], volatile organic compounds in the Denver Metro Area/North Front Range Area were reduced by nearly 50 percent even as oil production quadrupled statewide.”

Yuma County Commissioner Trent Bushner spoke of the industry’s importance in generating tax revenue that supports vital public services:

“When you take the gas out of our country, you can tell what that’s done to our budget, the ability to provide services to our citizens that we should. Yuma County does not have sales tax. We rely specifically on the money we generate from sources basically from land, and oil and gas is a huge part of that.

Mitch Pebley, a longtime industry worker said it’s possible to develop oil and natural gas while keeping Colorado beautiful:

“In my past, I’ve operated natural gas transmission and compression in some of the most pristine areas of Colorado. We were able to get along and make everything work in those areas. … The need for these resources are not going away, so please listen and build rules that will help all of Colorado.

Lyndsey Skatberg, a resident of Colorado Springs, said she supports an all-of-the-above energy strategy and collaboration among all stakeholders:

“What I see here is a wonderful opportunity here to come together, learn more about this industry, have meaningful dialogue, and recognize the advancements in technology that minimize environmental impact, promotes a culture of safety, encourages economic growth, and provides much need funding for our schools. I would also like to take the time to thank our hard-working men and women in the field whose efforts in energy production allow us to work from home safely during this pandemic.”

The COGCC has a full week of hearings, industry and stakeholder presentations, and public comments planned for rulemakings on SB-181.

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