John Whittum: Regulating oil

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From what I have personally observed at various oil and gas well sites in Routt, Garfield and other counties, concern for any public interest is barely perceptible.

I have seen places where water and air have become heavily contaminated. I have talked to surface property owners whose concerns have been dismissed by the industry's representatives who control subsurface rights (They can put a well rig within 150 feet of your house!). I have witnessed serious reductions in private property values. And I have seen a reckless disregard of wildlife protection practices.

Who is really in charge of monitoring and regulating oil and gas development? Supposedly, the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). But five out of seven of those commissioners are representatives of the industry itself. Does anybody really think these people will place public concerns over profitability? That, of course, is what any public commission should be doing. But these guys have had exclusive control for over 50 years. Even the Colorado Public Health and Wildlife officials cannot interfere with them. The oil and gas industry has maintained a stranglehold on the regulation of oil and gas development in the entire state. It's like having a private fiefdom; nobody can successfully challenge them inside their domains.

Reforming the COGCC is what has recently passed the Colorado House in HB1341, although our representative, Al White (303-866-2949), voted against it. The bill now goes to the Senate where Jack Taylor (303-866-5292) has already asked the governor to slow down this attempt at reform.

Call these lawmakers. Ask them to put the public interest ahead of the industry's.

John Whittum

Steamboat Springs

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