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February 20, 2015 01:30 PM UTC

Local Control Task Force About To Flunk Miserably?

  • by: Colorado Pols
Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis
Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

As the Denver Post's Mark Jaffe reported this week, the task force appointed last year to study and recommend proposals to improve local control over oil and gas drilling is wrapping up its work–but it's a big and open question what kinds of recommendations the body ultimately plans to make:

After deliberating for nearly five months, the governor's oil and gas task force is still marked by divisions between members seeking more local control of drilling and those representing industry.

A review of the straw-poll voting during the Feb. 3 meeting on 53 proposals made by members shows the six task force members representing industry opposing almost all local-control recommendations.

At the same time task-force members representing local interests pressed for proposals giving communities a greater role in locating oil and gas operations.

Although the panel has been able to unify around a few comparatively minor proposals to make local input on oil and gas permitting decisions a more timely part of the state's existing process, the bigger question of giving local governments a direct role in that decisionmaking has been flatly opposed by the industry's representatives on the task force. We have heard that the recommendations for Gov. John Hickenlooper coming out of this commission may not involve legislation at all, just rule changes to be carried out by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC)–which would be much more limited in scope than statutory changes, and very likely will not satisfy conservationists and local governments who want a meaningful role in these important land use decisions.

We want to stress that until the task force delivers its recommendations, nothing is certain. There's a possibility that the stakeholders can still come together on a substantive proposal, operating on the good-faith assumption that the industry ever had any legitimate desire for that. But from the point of view of anyone but the oil and gas industry and their immediate circle of support, disappointment is increasingly likely based on what we're hearing.

And that means you might be voting on local control next year after all, Colorado! Stay tuned.


22 thoughts on “Local Control Task Force About To Flunk Miserably?

  1. I spoke with some of the panel members, including the chair, Gwen. They are well aware of the mechanism by which they can easily balance the power between the O&G industry and regular folks…they are just unwilling to recommend it.

  2. I look forward to a version of SB93 possibly being on the ballot as well if the fracktavists continue to insist that mineral property rights holders need to be the only ones to sacrifice to meet the fracktavists' ideology.

    Local control must be balanced against property rights

      1. That you demean such a basic principle as property rights is an indication that your views are extremist. If the government takes your property they need to pay you just compensation.  Paying the costs of the eminent domain process should not be on the backs of the property holder but instead on the governmental entity that seems to force the property holder to "sacrifice" for the "greater good".

        1. When the 'greater good' involves not getting cancer or having my own property values destroyed I say you are on weak ground, counselor, even by some bizarre Randian notion of 'basic principle' that over-rides all social obligation.

          Or Rawls, swinging his arm, take your pick:  your argument is faulty.  The facts are weak too.  Show me where a decades old 'mineral right' guarantees the particular use of a specific 21st century technology?  

          1. Tater,

            The law has been clear that if you destroy the value of a property right for the greater good you need to pay just compensation.  The issue has been how much value needs to be destroyed.  If the fracktavists insist on bringing their extremist ideology to the ballot box, don't be surprised if mineral interest holders similarly bring the question to the ballot box on whether they should be compensated if 60% of the value of their property is taken from them due to such ideology.

            1. The law is not that clear and do not misrepresent it, on so-called 'regulatory takings' or on regulations geared toward specific technologies.  Show me where fracking itself is a use by right in what your claim is a clear canon of laws and rulings.

              Furthermore Sonnenberg's formulation is a vindicative, unworkable pile of feces.  Have you read it?  Of course shysters and speculators love it, its a funnel for public cash to end up in private pockets.  What can be more 'real world' CON-servative than that, huh? 

              1. Of course I have read it.  I wouldn't be commenting here if I hadn't.  The valuation procedure is hardly a "vindictive, unworkable pile of feces".  It is a straightforward process: if you wish to enforce a local control ordinance against a mineral rights holder you have three options: (a) go to the state and get authorization to approve it; (b) handle it locally and ensure it doesn't deprive a mineral interest holder 60% of the value of his interest; or (c) pay the mineral interest holder the value of his interest that you are depriving in the event such deprivation exceeds 60% of the interest. 

                As for the "speculative" element, it is quite revealing that you regard protection of ACTUAL property rights to be speculative.  Perhaps this is simply a difference of ideology.  If so, a ballot initiative may clarify how Coloradans feel about such things. 

                1. How much is a cubic foot of undevelope gas resource locked in shale worth?  Today?  Tomorrow?  A year from now?  When denied drilling commences?  When it ends?  When the right was purchased?  When some mineral holder believes it may be devloped in the future?  What date again?  Oil or gas?  Dry or wet?  With or without a pipeline nearby? Or  a future pipeline?  How about if LNG exports start??    Big. Steaming. Pile.

                  1. Good points, tater. Back in the early 80's during the ag crisis, Farm Credit Servies routinely resold agricultural properties that were acquired through foreclosure with 100% of the mineral rights attached.  In those transactions the mineral rights, for all practical purposes, were assigned a zero value (the land brought the same price whether the minerals were attached or not).

                  2. It should be measured based on a rolling average of the last five years of value from the date the preliminary determination process commences.  

                    Not a big fix or a large change. 

                    1. -anyway I have paid work to do (two trials in next two months)…so I gotta jet.  you should see the point though: the petition process can do more than just screw over mineral rights holders: it can protect them as well.  

                    2. Elliot,

                      Your calculation…

                      a rolling average of the last five years of value from the date the preliminary determination process commences.

                      Seems like something you pulled out of your hat. I can't see how that in any way passes the rational nexus test…

                      Ken Wonstolen (former lead counsel for COGA) once said, in response to an effort by Garfield county to institute some oversight action (can't recall the particulars just now), said,

                      "The state of Colorado has no business transferring value from the mineral estate to the surface estate." If that is true, counselor, what business does the state have in transferring it the other way? Am I to understand you think mineral rights really ARE superior to surface rights? Knowing what I am sure you must know about why it was ever considered that way to begin with, how can you justify the inequity inherent in trashing surface rights for the benefit of the mineral estate? As THT and MB have pointed out, mineral development is highly speculative…much more so than Real Estate.

                      Mineral developers have had a right to steal from surface owners for far too long. If "taking" is the issue, it needs to be straight up… 50/50…completely equal. 

                      2,000 ft….nothing less.


            2. I'll anxisouly await a late bill by my Senator, the Chair of the Senate Ag Committee, Sonnenberg, to compensate Colorado agriculture for its damages from increased levels of ozone in the state.  Jerry can't even do the simple arithmetic on how the RPS substantially benefitted the economy of his home county, Logan County – to perform this statewide calculation he's going to have to throw his Dumphuckistan economists overboard and start with a new team.

  3. I'm late to this party, but perhaps someone can still fill in a gap in the discussion for me.  Lots and lots of discussions about setbacks of various distances as well as the fluff up over compensating landowners if they can't have their own drill rig.  But nowhere have I see the topic of horizontal drilling brought into the equation.  My understanding is that moving a drill rig back another 500 or 1,000 feet would still leave the gas resource within easy reach via horizontal drilling.  I'm fairly certain that some federal lands are available for leasing, but disallow any surface occupancy.  So again, I'm just trying to figure out how horizontal drilling figures into this and other discussions about setbacks and royalty compensation. 

    1. Yes, there are federal lands that have No Surface Occupancy leases, and yes they can extend the bore more than 2000 feet.  And Sonnenberg's bill is garbage designed to be vindictive and a boon to shysters and speculators.  Here's a question for our resident gas counselor, how much tight shale gas exists uner an undrilled parcel??  How do you value 'I don't have a fucking clue?'  Yep, speculate, and hire a  lawyer.  

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