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July 22, 2013 08:33 AM UTC

Regulator, Regulate Thyself

  • by: Colorado Pols

As the Durango Herald's Emery Cowan reports:

The state’s top gas and oil regulator backpedaled on a comment he made earlier this week that fracking opponents are generally affluent enough that they don’t have to worry about heating and cooling costs.

“It was an overgeneralization and improperly so,” said Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, after a presentation at Friday’s Gas and Oil Regulatory Team meeting in Durango…

On Friday, Lepore said his comment stemmed from frustration that the economic effects of prohibiting the controversial drilling technique tend to be absent from current debates.

“I don’t hear them being discussed, and I think that’s a mistake, and maybe the improper leap that I made is that the people engaged in dialogue just aren’t worried about it,” he said. “That’s probably not true either, but I think that is where I was coming from.”

The Fort Collins Coloradoan's Bobby Magill filed the original story about Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Director Matt Lepore's comments about "fracking" opponents last Tuesday, to recap:

When residents “storm city hall and demand you protect their health, safety and welfare armed with misinformation,” they fail to draw a connection between a ban on fracking and the cost of natural gas, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Director Matt Lepore said Tuesday, speaking at the Northern Colorado Energy Summit.

If you look at the demographics of anti-fracking activists, he said, they are generally affluent enough not to be concerned with the cost of home heating and cooling, he said.

“A ban on fracking is really a ban on drilling,” he said. “A ban on fracking means an increase in coal use to generate electricity. It means an increase in local costs of electricity.”

Says Lepore about those remarks in this weekend's Herald,

As the director of the commission, Lepore said his place probably isn’t to comment about things such as the financial status of people debating gas and oil regulation in the state.

We would call that a significant understatement.

Bottom line: the claim from oil and gas industry proponents that opposition to the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is generally the pursuit of wealthy liberals is quite common. The purpose, of course, is to alienate opponents of "fracking," particularly near residential areas, parks, and schools as increasingly seen in Colorado, from the general public by inspiring some kind of "class resentment" over energy prices.

This seeks to deflect from the fact that fracking threatens neighborhoods of all economic classes, from wealthy Boulder to working-class Greeley. It also ignores that drilling in "split estate" residential areas pits wealthy energy companies against individual homeowners. Maybe there is a little arrogant presumption about the intelligence of "ordinary" American citizens thrown in for good measure?

For all of these reasons, for the director of the COGCC to say something like this is totally unacceptable. It reveals a contempt for public concerns about the issue Lepore regulates, wholly contrary to his mandate to protect and serve the people of the state of Colorado. And like his boss, a terse acknowledgement on the opposite side of the state in a small-market newspaper that he was wrong to do so is not enough.


2 thoughts on “Regulator, Regulate Thyself

  1. Just like so many things in politics today, it's hard to journey through the trickery and get to the root of the discussion we should be having. 

    I watch one faction [the frack-at-any-cost crowd] paint this is an 'us v. them' aka elite, out-of-touch liberals v. the residents of the 51st state.  All the while, said residents are quarantined in their house with their children and elderly relatives because of ozone alerts, simultaneously raising their fists and yelling, 'hell, yeah!'.

    With my rural Colorado hat on, I see the many good jobs my friends enjoy in the industry.  No one wants to take that away from them.  But the industry has painted it that way.  And my friends believe the liberals are coming after their jobs.  Gas production is a huge part of Yuma County's assessed valuation – we live and die by gas production and the Henry Hub.  The discussion we should be having here is how we start setting the stage for the next frontier of energy production [wind in our case] so that we can be ramping up that tax base while our gas fields play themselves out.

    With my state citizen hat on, I'm not happy about the fact we have a severance tax that is half the rate of Wyoming and New Mexico; I'm not happy that there will be no 'rainy day' or 'education' fund ala Wyoming when these fields have been mined and the industry players have packed up their toys and left the state.  And from this same perspecitve, wouldn't I rather have half the wells producing gas at $5 mcf than twice that many at half the price?  These precious, state resources should be properly extracted and accounted for to the benefit of both the state's citizens and the industry.  The gas reserves aren't going to magically disappear if you don't mine them to extinction in this decade.

    And please, Mr. Lepore, no one is builidng any more coal plants.  This discussion should be about 'balance'.  All anyone wants is transparency and accountability.  An adherence to science.  On one hand they want to assure me that they can tell us within a millimeter where there drill bit is located 10,000 feet below the surface.  On the other hand, the same crowd dismisses the industry's effect of fugitive emissions on the climate and personal health.  You want me to believe the science and accuracy of your technology – while you simultaneously dismiss the science of the atmosphere and other peripherals such as the ground cover/vegetative loss due to ozone and methane leakage? 

    There is a balance to be found.  IMHO, we haven't yet achieved 'balance'.

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