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Task force moves to empower local government

The issue of local authority over oil and gas permits has been a hotly-debated topic for the state of Colorado. Despite opposition, several proposals discussed at Monday’s Oil and Gas Task Force meeting could facilitate a more powerful role for local governments in permitting oil and gas development and operation, the Denver Post reports.

Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed the task force in September as a compromise to avoid issues of local control appearing on the November ballot. The task force, made up of 21 health and industry specialists, is responsible for making proposals for resolutions to issues such as local control and setbacks; if a proposal receives a two-thirds vote, it is then sent to the governor.

Though 14 task force members voted in favor of enhanced roles for local governments in drilling operations, the proposals don’t quite grant communities the authority to reject oil and gas development permits.

Task force member and mayor of Boulder Will Toor said “there needs to be some additional teeth,” for local government. Without empowering local communities, Toor believes “we won’t have advanced the ball.”

The task force approved a proposal requiring oil and gas companies to seek local approval for drilling permits before looking to the state government.

“This was always designed to favor the local government on the front end,” said task force member Russ George, who used to direct the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Other proposals that received a two-thirds vote include:

  • Allowing stricter local regulations, as long as they adhere to state regulations
  • Requiring early notification to local authorities for large-scale operations
  • Cooperation between fuel companies and local governments to develop land-use plans
  • Requiring oil companies to compensate land owners for any surface damage drilling may incur

Propositions recommending state oversight and response garnered an almost unanimous approval.

 

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