Where were the oil and gas industry representatives at the Marble/Saine Energy Summit?

Senator Vicki Marble (R-SD23) stated that the goal of the Marble/Saine Stakeholder Energy Summit was “to have a full discussion” on “abandoned flowlines” and “statutory pooling” with “input from all affected stakeholders.”  Then why were the oil and gas industry associations not participating on the June 22 panel even though they were invited?

As one of the homeowners in the Wildgrass neighborhood where we own our mineral rights, for over a year I have advocated for changes in Colorado’s forced pooling legislation (also called statutory pooling).  When I testified in favor of HB17-1336 Additional Protections Forced Pooling Order on May 3 in the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, and Military Affairs, I heard oil and gas industry association representatives claim that the legislation didn’t have full stakeholder involvement in drafting it.  Republican legislators repeated that justification for killing the bill that day.  Senator Marble might have read these contentions afterwards in the Senate record, since she was absent from her role as chair during this vote.

Senator Marble’s Stakeholder Energy Summit June 22th afternoon agenda for Statutory Pooling included panelists listed as “Operators – TBA” and “Industry -Tracee Bentley.”  Tracee Bentley is the Executive Director of the Colorado Petroleum Council.  However, no industry representative or operator participated as a panelist in either the morning flowline or afternoon forced pooling sessions.  In the morning session on abandoned flowlines, there was an unidentified person who stood up in the audience to reply to Attorney Matt Sura’s question about the lack of industry representation on the panel.  This person stated that there were industry representatives “listening” in the audience, but they were not participating because the industry was “busy” completing the 5/2 abandoned flowline NTO request from the governor.  The connection between field workers completing flowline work and executives not being able to participate on a discussion panel was lost on me. The woman who made the announcement in the morning was not present at all in the afternoon at the forced pooling discussion and neither were a few others who appeared to be industry representatives “listening” in the morning.

Why were the industry representatives absent in the afternoon during the forced pooling legislation conversation?  Is it because it is a property rights issue, and it defies logic as to why it is not a bipartisan measure to change Colorado’s antiquated statutes?  The fact that Colorado statutes force a non-consenting mineral owner to have liability for the accidents of the oil and gas company which has seized their minerals is outrageous. Colorado’s threshold for forced pooling is also draconian, as an oil and gas company is allowed to force pool all mineral owners in a spacing unit as long as one mineral owner signs a lease.  There are also forced pooling changes needed for clearer notice, more advanced notice and greater transparency in the number of mineral owners forced pooled in the state of Colorado.  (See Denver Post editorial supporting changes to forced pooling legislation.)

I certainly appreciated the panel participation of Broomfield Council Member Mike Shelton and Elizabeth Law-Evans.  They asked insightful questions and were especially assertive in their support of modifications in the forced pooling statutes.  I was also grateful for the panel participation of Wildgrass Mineral Owners’ Attorney Matt Sura, who provided expert knowledge at LOGIC’s invitation to be their representative on the panel.  And as always, Ann Marie Byers was enlightening with her testimony about our Wildgrass specifics.

But according to Sen. Marble’s own stated goals, the subsequent sessions on July 20, August 24 and September 21 will not be fruitful unless the oil and gas industry comes to the table.  They certainly are eager to testify any other time when they want to defeat impacted citizens’ legislation.  We’ll see if Senator Marble can get them to participate on the July 20th panel.  The rest of us are making the effort.

Jean Lim, Wildgrass