Steamboat Springs Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger was among 82 local governmental officials in Colorado this week who signed a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper registering their disappointment that the state has sued the city of Longmont because of its oil and gas drilling regulations and asking him to withdraw the suit.
The Longmont Times-Call reported in late July that the suit is about regulations adopted by the Longmont City Council that require energy exploration companies to install water-quality monitoring devices and that prohibit surface drilling within residential subdivisions, among other things.
The Routt County Board of Commissioners also was involved in a dispute with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission during the summer because of its insistence on imposing requirements for water-quality monitoring wells on some proposed oil wells.
Monger said Friday that he thinks there is more common ground for local governments and Gov. Hickenlooper to explore short of a lawsuit.
“We’re not against oil and gas; we’re supportive,” Monger said. “We want to be partners with oil and gas, and we want to be partners with the state of Colorado. But it’s very concerning that the sate would be coming in and testing our land-use authority that has been in effect since 1972. Local governments have the right and responsibility to protect health, safety and welfare of our citizens.”
Monger’s Republican opponent in the fall election for the Routt County Commissioner District 2 seat, Tina Kyprios, said she thinks that Colorado already has standards regulating oil and gas drilling that are among the best in the country and that Longmont will need to make some concessions to the state. However, she too would like to see greater cooperation.
“The question, ultimately, is trying to get (local governments) and the state to work together outside the courtroom,” Kyprios said.
Republican Chuck McConnell, who is running for Colorado House District 26 against Democrat and Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush this fall, said he doesn’t understand the concerns Monger and others who signed the letter have about protecting public health, safety and welfare from oil and gas drilling.
“If the governor and the (Oil and Gas Commission) have worked through all the issues and they’re saying this is safe, it’s hard for me to understand where the fear is coming from,” McConnell said.
Mitsch Bush said Routt County, like Longmont, has statutory authority over land-use policy in its jurisdiction. She added she would have signed the letter but was under the impression that Monger had signed on behalf of the Routt County Board of Commissioners.
“For Routt County, we believe water and air quality (protection) are within our local land-use authority,” Mitsch Bush said. “And while I can’t speak for Longmont, I just don’t think the state should make a practice of suing local governments for doing their job.”
Colorado Senate District 8 Democratic candidate Emily Tracy, of Breckenridge, said in a statement this week that she supports the letter to the governor. Based on her experience in local governments, she said her constituents would have the best opportunity to influence how energy exploration moves forward in their area through public hearings at the local level.
Her opponent, Republican legislator Randy Baumgardner, could not be reached Friday. At a recent campaign event in Hayden, he said that to allow each county in Colorado to develop its own set of rules governing the oil and gas industry would serve as a deterrent to business.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com