As the Denver Post’s John Aguilar reports:
Weld County is letting it be known that there’s more than one way to interpret Senate Bill 181 — Colorado’s sweeping oil and gas law giving local governments appreciably more power to regulate energy extraction.
The Weld commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Monday designating the unincorporated parts of the county as a “mineral resource area of state interest.”
Previous discussion of SB 181 has focused on municipalities that want to tighten restrictions on the oil and gas industry, but commissioners Monday expressed a clear interest in making sure the industry remains a formidable force in a county that relies heavily on mineral extraction for jobs and tax revenues.
“SB 181 changed a lot of things,” said Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer during Monday’s meeting. “We are going to use the additional authority … that was given to us so that we have a fighting chance — so that the men and women in this county have a fighting chance.”
Despite the factually deficient warnings by opponents of this year’s landmark reform of oil and gas drilling regulations that Senate Bill 19-181 would “destroy the oil and gas industry in Colorado,” the reality of the new law is nothing like a ban or even major curtailment of oil and gas drilling. Although some local governments have taken action to restrict drilling within their boundaries under the new law’s “local control,” areas of the state who are friendly to the industry have the ability to remain friendly.
We wrote early in May about a resolution passed by the Weld County Board of Commissioners in support of the oil and gas industry during the heated debate over Senate Bill 19-181. Commissioners paid almost $2,000 out of petty cash for signs and bumper stickers celebrating Weld County’s love for the industry–a clear indicator that the county government would remain every bit accommodating to drillers as they were before. And now, Weld County is wasting no time using local control to declare their little slice of feedlot heaven a “drill baby drill” zone!
This move however does create a major contradiction for Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, the board of commissioners’ ideological lightning rod who supported the failed laugh-track secession ballot question in 2013 and was herself threatened with a recall attempt just last year. In today’s Greeley Tribune, the contradiction stands out rather painfully:
In a letter responding to the recall attempt last year, Kirkmeyer, the Board of Weld County Commissioners chairwoman, said “The recall of a duly elected commissioner should be reserved for serious offenses and violations of public trust — not to retaliate for policy decisions that a handful of individuals or special interests don’t like, nor used to take over county government between regular elections and four-year commissioner terms.”
Polis, she said, violated the public’s trust in supporting and signing SB 181, which proponents say will give local governments more control over oil and gas, but opponents are concerned it will greatly decrease oil and gas in the state, especially after another oil and gas regulation bill failed to pass a public vote last November.
Let’s briefly walk through the tangled web Kirkmeyer weaves. Recalls “should be reserved for serious offenses and violations of public trust,” and not to take over governments “between regular elections!” Now, Kirkmeyer tells the Tribune that in her opinion SB-181 “violated the public’s trust,” clearing a path to support a recall of Gov. Jared Polis–but did she give that quote before or after she invoked SB-181 to protect the oil and gas industry in Weld County Monday night?
Folks, the reality of this is very simple. Months of overheated rhetoric is coming apart now that the bill is law and its true effects are becoming apparent. SB-181 is not the end of oil and gas in Colorado, and it’s certainly not the end of the industry in friendly places like Weld County. Once you understand this, it becomes evident that the real problem for SB-181’s opponents is that the industry will be less able to impose its will on communities who are not slavishly loyal to the oil and gas industry like Weld County is.
And that sounds a hell of a lot more like policy–defensible at that–than a violation of public trust.