POSITION IN BRIEF:

Support of measures to improve the coordination, effectiveness and efficiency of governmental units within the state of Colorado and measures which promote integrated planning for environmental management, wise use of Colorado’s water resources and other natural resources, comprehensive statewide planning for land use, and a balanced transportation system. Support policies that enhance public participation in the permitting and monitoring of oil and gas operations in the state.

POSITION: (Adopted 1971)

  • The structure of state government should insure coordination and cooperation among state agencies. The responsibilities and enforcement powers of state boards and commissions should be clarified.
  • The state should be allowed to set more restrictive standards than the federal government.
  • The state should provide technical support to local governments in matters of environmental planning and management.
  • Development projects in Colorado should be environmentally sound, and should be in compliance with all federal and state environmental laws.
  • Federal installations and lands should comply with state regulation, and state enforcement agencies should be permitted inspection rights at federal installations.

The public should be involved early in the decision-making process, and procedures should be established which allow for alternative solutions.

Criteria for Decisions:

  • Creation of a clean and healthy environment which takes into account the quality of life and provides the greatest benefit to the greatest number of citizens, present and future.
  • The physical suitabilities of the land, the current or potential adequacy of necessary services and facilities (including local and regional transportation), and the capability of the area to support an adequate employment base for current and future populations.
  • Recognition that long-range ecological effects have greater importance than short-range problems.
  • Industrial growth which is evaluated carefully for environmental impact with recognition given to the varying needs of different geographic areas.
  • Consideration of distribution and growth of population and conservation of natural resources.
  • The nonrenewable resources of Colorado constitute a wealth that is a heritage of the people. The people of the state of Colorado bear the burden of the social, economic, environmental and aesthetic impact of the extraction of these resources from the state and should be compensated accordingly.

Hydraulic Fracturing: (Adopted 2013)

LWVCO supports policies that enhance public participation in the permitting and monitoring of oil and gas operations in the state. LWVCO supports efforts to improve coordination with local governmental units for environmental management and wise land use. We support strong environmental regulations for water quality, air quality and those that impact human health.

Support for:

  • Public hearings held in the actual community of the drilling.
  • Public notice of hearings on transparent user-friendly web sites and other media.
  • Transparent, user-friendly web site to register complaints and view subsequent resolution.
  • Use of the Local Government Designee (LGD) and education for LGD’s in the state in order to more easily respond to local citizen concerns.
  • Strong environmental and safety regulation of water quality and air quality including pre and post testing of water wells and air around all oil and gas well sites.
  • Transparency in the reporting of all chemicals used during drilling, posted on a neutral website that is easily accessible to the public.
  • Adequate number of inspectors for the volume of oil & gas activity in the state to ensure that operations are safe and accidents are properly reported and mitigated.
  • Research, development and use of environmentally friendly extraction methods and equipment, including those providing for the capture of methane.
  • Monitoring of the water quantity used for oil and gas drilling operations in a manner that is transparent to the public.
  • Reporting of information on the demands for water used for oil and gas drilling in specific river basins.
  • Reuse of produced water, with regulatory oversight.

HISTORY

LWVCO supported unsuccessful attempts in the early 1970s to enact a Colorado Environmental Policy Act. In the mid-1970s, the League successfully supported legislation that required consideration of geological and topographical factors in new subdivision approvals, and also the passage of the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Act.

During the push to develop Colorado’s oil shale resources, from the early 1970s through the early 1980s, LWVCO urged that all the federal agencies involved coordinate their planning and environmental assessment procedures, and that state agencies be included in the planning for development. The League emphasized that any oil shale projects should be environmentally sound and should abide by all federal and state environmental and planning laws. Attempts to abolish the reclamation program for minerals have consistently been opposed by the League.

During the 1990’s the LWVCO opposed bills regarding “private property rights” or “takings,” since they undermined comprehensive land use planning and were fiscally onerous. The bills were defeated.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was established in 1951 to handle the permitting and oversight of oil and gas drilling operations. In 2007 LWVCO supported revamping the composition of the Commission to decrease the number of individuals working in the industry, and to increase the members representing concerns about health, the environment, and the interests of surface land owners. During the 2011 session, attempts were made to reverse this, but were defeated.

By early 2013 Colorado had over 49,000 oil and gas drilling operations, predominantly on the Front Range and in the southwest part of the state. As the number has increased over the last few years and operations have come closer to populated areas, there has been legislation introduced to address a variety of health and safety issues. During the 2013 session League-supported bills passed increasing the number of inspectors for oil and gas operations and decreasing the lower limit for number of barrels spilled that triggers reporting requirements. LWVCO also supported bills allowing use of produced water for dust suppression, increasing penalties for violations, and mandating uniform groundwater sampling, but these failed.

In 2014 the League continued to support efforts for more inspectors, increased fines for polluters and better response times to spills. All of these efforts succeeded. The League also supported tighter air quality standards around drilling operations. In 2014 the Air Quality Control Commission voted to support monitoring on the Front Range, but not the Western Slope.