COGCC Aims for “Collaboration” and “Certainty” for Colorado’s Oil and Natural Gas Industry
The newly reorganized Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission is striving to successfully implement new industry regulations and seeking collaboration with stakeholders to provide a renewed sense of certainty for energy production in the state, according to COGCC’s commissioners during the 32nd Annual Energy Summit hosted by the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA), held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year, SB-181 – a major overhaul of oil and natural gas regulations which also turned the COGCC into a fulltime, professional body – was passed by the General Assembly passed and signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis. Upon signing the law, Polis said he hoped that “the oil and gas wars that have enveloped our state are over.”
Since then, “Keep It In The Ground” activists have attempted to introduce new anti-energy ballot measures, but saw their efforts dismissed by top Democratic leaders including House Speaker KC Becker back in January who declared that “ballot initiatives weren’t needed” and that the focus should be on implementing SB-181. This summer, with the state struggling with COVID-19, Polis announced an agreement among industry leaders and mainstream environmental groups to hold off on new ballot measures through the 2022 election. Fringe environmental groups have vowed to press on with new measures, but their plans for this November have already crumbled.
With the state finally free of costly political fights, the COGCC is now looking to make SB-181 work in the best interests of the state with the help of industry, communities, and other stakeholders. This sentiment was highlighted by newly appointed Commissioner Priya K. Nanjappa:
“Looking to improve the rules where necessary as part of interpreting them and looking at what aspects we can make clearer, what aspects we can address and ensure they are reasonable and making sure we’ve fully understood what the needs are from our various stakeholders.”
Another new commissioner, Karin McGowan, a former regulator at the Colorado Department of Public Healthy and the Environment, echoed those thoughts and the need for collaboration to achieve positive results for everyone:
“I have experience working with communities who are on the receiving end sometimes of the regulations that we put together, and I truly believe that through collaboration and communication, we can come up with great ideas and better outcomes.”
John Messner, who previously served on the COGCC, said he also wants to focus on bringing different stakeholders together:
“I would also include roles like being an active listener, facilitator of conversations, bridge maker, and a problem solver, a collaborator.”
Bill Gonzalez spent his career as an industry land man before being appointed to the COGCC this year and said that there can be responsible oil and natural gas development within the new regulations:
“I believe in responsible, well-regulated energy development in Colorado. I believe it is important to protect our health, safety, and environment. … I believe that industry can continue to thrive within the high standards set by SB 19-181 and the new COGCC mission.”
Jeff Robbins, the new commission chairman who previously served as executive director of the COGCC, said bringing certainty and stability for all stakeholders will be a priority of the body:
“I think establishing a regulatory relationship that is workable for each of Colorado’s unique communities and that will also provide some certainty and predictability to industry, that is an exciting time for us, and local governments and I think for industry across the state. And I’m excited that we get this opportunity to try to redefine all of this so that we are creating some solutions as opposed to lots of the fights I’ve seen over my career.”
Messner also noted that Colorado can have both a thriving oil and natural gas industry and protect the environment and public health:
“Find this balance that can be found of having a successful oil and gas industry in the state of Colorado, which is an incredibly important part of our economy, but also preserving what’s important to Coloradans as part of their public health, safety, welfare, environment, wildlife resources, outdoor elements that are so important. I know that balance can be found because I’ve seen it happen in a lot of the different circumstances that I’ve been in.”
The COGCC will continue to hold public hearings on SB-181 implementation throughout the rest of the year.