Barbara Green: Conservation concerns
March 13, 2012
Thank you for the thoughtful remarks in "The Devil is in the details" (Our View, March 7 Steamboat Today). I am serving as the Colorado Conservation Voters' representative to Gov. John Hickenlooper's oil and gas task force. As a board member of Colorado Conservation Voters, I am well aware that other conservation and environmental organizations are not at this table. Colorado Conservation Voters is dedicated to coordinating with these organizations to ensure that environmental and conservation concerns relating to oil and gas development are part of the discussion.
I disagree with those who argue that the relationship between local land use authority and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission authority is confusing. Courts have been clear that local governments have substantial authority to regulate land use and development to prevent impacts to the environment, and to public health, safety and welfare. Local land use regulations are presumed to be valid whether they apply to residential, commercial or industrial development, including mining and oil and gas operations. When an industry is regulated by the state, local land use regulations have to yield to state regulations only if local regulation of the industry would create an operational conflict with state requirements. That determination is made on a case-by-case basis under the facts of a particular land use proposal.
We were relieved to learn at the first meeting that the task force intends to work on ways to enhance the local government designee process, and elaborate on inspection memorandums of understanding between the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and local governments. Colorado Conservation Voters is committed to the complementary exercise of the COGCC and local land use authority, not in ceding any existing local powers. The only way that the environment and public health, safety and welfare can be protected is if COGCC works with, not against, local jurisdictions.
Land use attorney, Boulder