State Regulatory Board Dispels Myth that Agency “Has Never Denied a Permit”
Last fall, Colorado voters soundly rejected Proposition 112, a measure that would have significantly expanded oil and gas setbacks. Now anti-industry activists are attempting to make permitting more difficult by turning their ire on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).
A popular – and patently false — refrain among activists is that the COGCC “has never denied a permit.” This myth is frequently perpetuated in the media. Activists hope to turn public opinion against the COGCC and thus make it easier to change its composition and mission to make it more anti-industry. As we saw during the 112 campaign, the end goal of these activists is to ban oil and gas from the state, not to institute reasonable regulations.
Here are a few examples:
“An agency that is charged with promoting an industry rather than protecting the public from harm is doomed to catastrophic failure. To this day the COGCC has never turned down a permit.” (Colorado Rising’s Anne Lee Foster,Denver Post, 1/14/19)
“The COGCC has never denied a permit application.” (Attorney Matt Sura, Frack-Free Heatherwood Town Hall Meeting, 12/19/18)
“First of all they should start denying permits every once in a while because they never have…Their mission statement right now is to promote and regulate the industry.” (Then-State Representative and current State Senator Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, Longmont Times Call, 11/7/18)
“These two decisions make it clear that the law is just wrong and rigged to support the industry…At this point, it is clear we need an overhaul of the COGCC and the regulatory system of the industry in order to make policy to protect the people.” (Grand Valley Citizens Alliance chairwoman Leslie Robinson, Craig Daily Press, 1/15/19)
But is this really the case? No.
COGCC officials answered that question during the Commission’s’ monthly hearing this week. Democratic Commissioner Howard Boigon, who also serves as co-vice chair, put it this way:
“I’d also like somebody to comment on the comment that we get often that the commission has never denied a permit. I think that’s an inaccurate statement for several reasons, and the most obvious is shown here in the staff report because there is a column for rejected permits, there is a column for withdrawn permits, a column for incomplete permits, which has a significant number in all of them.”
“My understanding is the process is a long and complex one and permit applications are often returned to operators or are negotiated with operators so that they include conditions of approval that ultimately allow permits to be approved and that some permits are, in fact, rejected. But I think it’s important that we maintain public trust in our operations to address the issue of how we deal with permit applications.”
According to COGCC’s most recent staff report, the agency rejected 487 permit applications in 2018 in addition to 847 applications that were withdrawn.
So as Coloradans hear new complaints about COGCC and how it operates, remember that those false talking points come from the same activists who pushed for a ballot measure that was endorsed by anti-fracking activistslike 350.org’s Bill McKibben, New Yorkers Against Fracking’s Sandra Steingraber and Gasland Director Josh Fox and would have devastated the oil and gas industry in Colorado. They’ve lost at the ballot box and lost in the courts, so now they have their sights set on the COGCC. It’s no surprise that they have to resort to blatant falsehoods in their effort.