by Michael Kohut (see publication note below)
The laws that guide the oil and gas industry were established long ago when nobody was looking and few cared. They were established by an industry that is now essentially in charge of policing itself (the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, or the COGCC).
COGCC Director, Matt Lepore, freely admits residential setbacks are not based on scientific data. Further, Mr. Lepore’s commission has never denied a spacing application to drill.
The good news? The recent Martinez Court of Appeals ruling has the industry on its’ heels. The Martinez judgement states that balancing industry interests with the protection of people and the environment (a stated COGCC mission) is simply not enough.
The Colorado Court of Appeals said that the COGCC mandate “was not intended to require that a balancing test be applied . . . Rather, the clear language [of the agency’s enabling legislation] . . . mandates that the development of oil and gas in Colorado be regulated subject to the protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.”
The prevailing industry argument for “drill where we want” residential oil and gas development is that “law is law, without flaw, and warrants no challenge.” Yet, please, Broomfield, trust that there does exist legal grounds to challenge the status quo. We are not at the end of the residential drilling debate; we are at the beginning of a debate in flux and one that is entirely unresolved. The 301 City Charter Amendment is an embodiment of action vs. inaction and it is an expression of the Martinez ruling.
This week, the Broomfield County Clerk revealed $100,000 has been spent by industry lobby, Vital for Colorado, on their “Vote No on 301” campaign. And, the thesis of this fight against 301 is a singular, bald-faced lie. The propaganda calls your neighbors “outside special interest activists.”
Did you know that 9 Broomfield residents sat around a table and wrote the 301 language? That residents collected more than 2500 signatures in order to get 301 on the ballot? Did you know that the Broomfield County Clerk reported this week that the “Vote Yes on 301” campaign has collected $2,800 from Broomfield citizens only and that, to date, barely half of this money has been spent?
Residents supporting 301 are your immediate neighbors. We are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and Independents. We shop the same grocery stores, have kids that attend the same schools, attend the same places of worship.
The industry has resorted to spending big money talking up lies rather than taking on the actual words of the measure itself. Why? Is it because lying and deception is a more effective strategy than the tired “law should not be challenged” argument?
I ask those opposed to 301: If you are truly in the “right,” then why not simply show us why? Tell us: What makes private profit more important than public welfare? How is a commission, made up of individuals from the oil and gas industry, in a position to sufficiently regulate itself without intense conflict of interest?
Bill Owens, our ex-governor, is among those telling us that ballot question 301 is the work of outsiders. I suppose this should be no surprise, as prior to his service as governor, Bill Owens ran the Colorado Petroleum association.
The ex-governor’s “Vote No” TV ad, and the Vital for Colorado literature being mailed to our homes, tells us not to let outside activists divide Broomfield. Outside activists? Who, here, I ask, are the “outside activists” attempting to divide and conquer Broomfield?
Michael Kohut is a Broomfield resident
This Op-Ed by Michael Kohut first appeared in the October 19 edition of the Broomfield Enterprise. The author gave his permission to post it because it is not accessible online except within the pages of the e-edition http://broomfieldenterprise.co.newsmemory.com/