Hick Scarin’ the ‘Living Daylights’ Out of Gaspatch Denizens?

Yes, words do matter.  Those clumsily uttered can cause concern. Like the concerns raised about the reckless comments by Governor Hickenlooper in the recent New York Times piece.  

“we should drill the living daylights out of natural gas and cut regulation.”

It should first be noted that the term ‘living daylights out of’ is seldom used in a positive way, unless–I suppose–you’re the one doin’ the…whatever, but never, that I can tell, if you’re the one gettin’ it done too:  often ‘beating,’ ‘scaring,’ etc. according to a simple Google search.  

The term ‘living daylights out of’ certainly suggests, or threatens, a certain abandon that willfully disregards other ‘distractions.’ And for those living in the gas patch–you know, with the flaming faucets, swelling glands, poisoned wells, speeding toxic trucks–those implications are troubling.  


No industry should be given free rein by a governor or government to do as they will, regardless of other interests or conflicts. And although I doubt this was what Hick meant to convey, it’s a disconcerting statement in any context, and the governor’s office should provide more than a waffling ‘clarification.’

Sure, actions matter the most–and we’ll see how our new Governor handles these issues going forward–but words matter too. In any case they suggest close scrutiny of the administration’s next steps.  

The Colorado GOP is already signaling that, if it were to decide, any industry could simply have its way with Colorado–just tell us which way, and bend that way we will…–and is preparing its legislative agenda accordingly

A number of Colorado’s industry leaders, including those from the oil and gas industry, met last week with heads of the state legislature’s Republican Party to discuss “streamlining” regulations and industry oversight in an attempt to stimulate business interests in the state.

The roundtable discussion, hosted by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry in downtown Denver, was described by State Senate Majority Leader Mike Kopp as an opportunity for industry leaders to share their ideas on how best to minimize government hindrances to their operations.

…”Republicans in the Senate have put out there an aspirational goal: achieving a 15 percent reduction in the compliance costs for regulated businesses…

Its not just the oil and gas regulations, pretty much everything is on the table for the aspiring GOP–at least as far as regulations, fees, and taxes go…reality was put away long ago.

Industry representatives present at the roundtable discussion offered suggestions that ranged from alterations of tax rates and fine levies to expediting permits and adapting regulations to better fit industries’ needs. Tisha Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, pointed to the economic impacts of the oil and gas industry, in addition to voicing concerns about industry taxes and federal and local oversight.

…”We’ve seen companies flee Colorado for reserves in other states, not because those reserves are any better, but because the perception was that Colorado was closing down for business. And the tax environment and the regulatory environment are the two key pieces of that.”

But gas from back east is better, I mean if cost to produce is a concern, and not because of Colorado’s regulations.  Coming off–as we are–our third highest year (of drilling permits) in spite of an over-supply of gas in the midst of an historical recession, arguing that the regulations are holding the industry back is absurd on its face, of course.    

Still, the fact remains (which COGA may be too stupid or manipulative to acknowledge) that the difference in cost to develop a cubic foot of gas from, say, Pennsylvania rather than from Colorado is significant.  Reality: there are larger plays, easier to develop, closer to market back east that have helped glut the market making plays way out here less economical (but not uneconomical, as healthy and strong drilling rates show).      

But when you have been given the opportunity to suspend reality as you help the friendly GOP legislators turn your wish list into legislation, why not say these things?  They are busy people, after all, and need the talking points.  A real parasitic symbiotic relationship!

But wait. Perhaps greasing the wheel for industries is not the primary goal of good government? Perhaps, while business and industries’ expertise and input is certainly helpful, ensuring first and foremost the protection of public, and a fair balancing of competing private, interests should be our public agencies and officials primary responsibility?

Or maybe I’m missing something? Maybe I have mistaken government’s role, and the function of regulation in our society, imagining in my naive way that they were not merely impediments to someone’s profits.  If so, I humbly offer the following proposition:

I suspect my commute time would be reduced substantially if I were allowed to drive myself in the HOV/HOT lanes, at whatever speed I deem safe, signaling for lane changes when I–in my sole discretion–deem it necessary or prudent.

Certainly, I would get to work more quickly, increasing my productivity (and thus, incrementally, the state’s), and so should be given the ability to ‘drive the living daylights’ out of our state’s roads and highways.  

It would, I ensure you, increase my profitability, making me more inclined to drop that extra dollar in the barista’s jar, an outcome that is good–I think we can all agree–for me, the barista, and (by extension) all of Colorado and the nation.  There are, after all, a lot of coffee shops in the state.  

The Colorado GOP has already made its little street corner dance for its would-be suitors. Like many concerned about these issues, there is a reason I quit voting for them a while ago. I didn’t fill in Hick’s oval to get more of the same industry ‘friendliness.’

16 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Duke Coxdukeco1 says:

    seem to be missing a thing, Teeter.  Great diary.

    Ms. Schuller:

    We’ve seen companies flee Colorado for reserves in other states, not because those reserves are any better, but because the perception was that Colorado was closing down for business.

    Please give us the names of the company executives and decision makers that have said this…thank you. I can (and have) provided quotes from O&G company execs who have said otherwise.

    • ardy39 says:

      I’m still trying to figure out the destination of all those companies that are “fleeing” Colorado. Ms. Schuller, can you tell us?

      Since the peak in drilling activity in the 3rd quarter of 2008, the U.S. is still down over 300 active rigs (according to Baker Hughes as of Jan 7, 2011).

      From the 2008 peak of drilling activity,

      Colorado is still down 49%

      Utah is down 50%

      Wyoming is down 43%

      New Mexico is down 29%

      Even with all the new productive shale plays in the Gulf states, Texas is still down 23% from 2008. Oklahoma is still down 25%. Even Louisiana is down 15%.

      Sure, Pennsylvania is up 243% since 2008, but this dramatic increase is because they went from 30 to 103 rigs. That increase in 73 rigs are a pale shadow of the 1100 active rigs that were idled in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Arkansas, and other states, including Colorado, from 2008-09.

      So, Ms. Schuller, just where have all those companies gone? Please show your work.

  2. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    Many state agencies have an antagonistic relationship with business (DOR for one). That benefits no one. Reducing compliance costs does not necessarily mean reducing needed regulation, it can be effected by decreasing the costs of following the existing regulations.

    And that would be a good thing for everyone. Because additional profit enables additional hiring.

    • ClubTwitty says:

      Then asking industry to give them a list of which regulations to cut seems to be going about it backwards to me.  Obviously everyone likes efficiency.  

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

        When an agency is asked for guidance on what to do/pay, the agency must give an answer and live with that for a year (ie no saying at the end of the year we changed our mind and you owe a fine).

        Saves businesses a lot of time, makes compliance easier, and doesn’t eliminate any regulation. Aside from people like Roxy “I do nothing” Huber, who won’t like this approach?

    • Duke Coxdukeco1 says:

      you may be overlooking a very crucial aspect to this dynamic. It is your assumption that the antagonism comes from the regulatory agencies. Have you ever been in a debate with a room full of oil men and their lawyers when the subject was how much money you were going to cost them?

      To these guys, even the simplest level of compliance is an unbearable burden, likely to drive them out of business. They always go for the extreme POV, the lowest bar they can set. It is their MO.

      Certainly, David, the “rule us out” meme has been very effective. It is hollow and meaningless, however, when you look at the economics. It is just a slogan. But it passes down through the ranks and develops a truthiness. They come to believe it themselves. There are companies, though, for whom the rules are no big thing. I have talked to those men, myself.

      I have family working in the patch. The workers don’t mind, just the guys who have to forego upsizing their next yacht because they had to pay for too many pitliners.

      Simply standing up to those guys and doing your job can get you some pretty harsh treatment. Ask Rep. Kathleen Curry about the O&G lobby and the gentle form of persuasion they favor.

      I’m afraid you need to look across that aisle for “antagonism”.

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

        But keep in mind that what you describe is not the only issue when it comes to state regulation. You have many other cases where business owners ask an agency what they are supposed to do. Not to fight it, not to lobby for a change, just for specific direction so they know they’re following the rules. And in many cases the departments essentially tell someone to guess.

        So you hire an expert on that topic (money that could instead go toward hiring another person). That person gives you a conservative guess (so you don’t get mad at them for getting you fined). And you then do/pay that hoping that the state will find what you did acceptable.

        Don’t use my case as an excuse to reduce O&G regulation. But at the same time, don’t use the actions of the O&G lobbyists to stop giving businesses clear direction.

        • Duke Coxdukeco1 says:

          As a homebuilder and general contractor, clear direction is a godsend. At one time, a few years back, I was working, and/or licensed, in seven separate governmental entities’ jurisdiction. Between them, they were using three different code books, each interpreted by different inspectors. I know the value of certainty.

          I don’t know how it is in IT, but asking an O&G guy which regulations he would like to cut is like offering a monkey a bite of your banana…you are not likely to get any yourself. They have a tendency to take it all.

        • With DOR, industry isn’t telling the regulators what to do.  Industry (businesses) are constantly asking DOR, “what do you want us to do to comply?” and getting no answers or incomplete answers or contradictory answers or unclear answers. Dealing with DOR, you always end up not being sure that you’re doing things right.  They’re unhelpful, vague and mildly antagonistic.  This is when you call them just to ensure that you’re complying with tax reporting. My experience with them has been regarding sales tax collections.  I think calling and asking for guidelines about a couple of issues may have triggered an audit (maybe it was coincidence).  After the audit, we changed processes, but I’m not sure we’re okay.  We never got specific guidelines.  The city does a much better job with this.

          So when does Hick announce his Dept of Revenue appointment?    

        • is that our legislators, being heavily influenced by the industries in question, won’t permit regulators the statutory power they need to set or update regulations.  Still, regulators may be left with the restricted task of “interpreting” some vague or poorly written law, and they may be permitted to issue some loose current enforcement guidance, but that’s about it.

          So along comes Mr. Businessman with a question about something that a poorly written or outdated law doesn’t clearly address.  The regulator likely has a statutory legal prohibition against giving “legal advice.”  What’s the option they’re left with? — advising you to get a private attorney to look into your issue (because of the strictures in the law against making any such ruling).

          So, the final question of the law ultimately gets left up to the courts.  Why?  Because when the law was written the industry proponents didn’t want the regulator to have the kind of authority necessary to issue formal legal interpretations or opinions.

          It’s far too common and too often a system that doesn’t serve industry or regulation very well.

          • Isn’t that why we have regulatory agencies – to implement laws? I guess I thought the process was pass the law, agencies develop a plan with guidelines to implement, a legal review, then publication of rules. I’m ignorant on the specifics, I just assumed this was the process.  

            Are the same things true for Dept. of Health, or Labor?  I just don’t understand.

          • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

            If the agency or person goes to court. If the agency will say it will accept X and the person will accept X, then no matter how badly written the law is and how restricted the agency’s actions, it won’t go to court.

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