University of Colorado at Boulder
BMP of Oil and Gas Development

Task Force on Cooperative Strategies Regarding State and Local Regulation of Oil and Gas Development

In the summer of 2014, multiple conflicting initiatives involving questions about local jurisdictions and oil & gas were headed to the ballot. But in a grand bargain orchestrated by Governor John Hickenlooper, the competing ballot initiatives were pulled and the governor issued an Executive Order creating a Task Force to identify recommendations regarding issues such as conflicts between local and state regulation, multiple wells production areas, and drilling operations near and within communities. Over the course of five months, the Task Force conducted hearings in the state’s major oil and gas producing regions as well as Denver and toured sites on both the Front Range and Western Slope.

The Task Force focused on how to most reasonably and effectively balance land use issues in a way that minimizes conflicts while protecting communities and allowing reasonable access to private mineral rights. Governor Hickenlooper directed the Task Force to focus on the following objectives including but not limited to:

  1. Benefitting oil and gas development in the state’s economy,
  2. Protecting public health, water resources, the environment and wildlife,
  3. Avoiding duplication and conflict between state and local regulations or oil and gas activities and,
  4. Fostering a climate that encourages responsible oil and gas development. The Task Force work concluded with the release of the Final Recommendations to the Governor on February 27, 2015.

Members of the Oil and Gas Task Force

Task Force members were comprised of representatives from local government, civic organizations, environmental interests, agriculture, and affected industries.

It were comprised of twenty-one total members; two co-chairs and nineteen additional members. The Task Force is divided into three groups of stakeholders:

  • Six members of the Task Force representing the oil and gas industry, the agricultural industry, and home building industry.
  • Six members representing local government and the conservation community.
  • Finally, seven members representing a variety of interests.

Co-Chairs: La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt and Randy Cleveland, President of XTO Energy, Inc.

Members: Sara Barwinski, Bernie Buescher, Peter Dea, Jim Fitzgerald, Russ George, Jon Goldin-Dubois, Bard Holly, Dan Kelly, Rebecca Kourlis, Steve Moreno, Perry Pearce, Kent Peppler, Pat Quinn, Bruce Rau, Jeff Robins, Matt Sura, Will Toor, Elbra Wedgeworth, and R. Scot Woodall.

Task Force Final Report 2015

The Oil and Gas Task Force released its Final Report on February 27, 2015. The task force approved nine proposals to send to Governor Hickenlooper. Several of the recommendations would requires action from the Colorado General Assembly, and at least one recommendation will require extensive rule making by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

In order for a recommendation to be forwarded to the governor it required a supermajority of 14 votes from the 21-person task force.

Final Task Force Recommendations Sent to Governor:

Recommendation to Facilitate Collaboration of Local Governments, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and Operators Relative to Oil and Gas Locations and Urban Planning.

Recommendation to Include Future Oil and Gas Drilling and Production Facilities in Existing Local Comprehensive Planning Process.

Recommendation to Enhance the Local Government Liaison and Local Government Designee Roles and Functions.

Recommendation to Increase COGCC Full Time Staff, Including Inspectors, Field Operations, Enforcement, and Permitting Staff.

Recommendation Related to CDPHE Staffing, a Health Complaint Line, a Human Health Risk Assessment, and a Mobile Air Quality Monitoring Unit.

Recommendation to Create an Oil and Gas Information Clearing House.

Recommendation to Reduce Truck Traffic on Public Streets, Roads, and Highways for Oil and Gas Activities.

Recommendation to General Assembly Regarding Air Quality Rules.

Recommendation to Implement a Compliance Assistance Program.

Reactions to Task Force Recommendations

The Oil and Gas Task Force process and final report have received attention from all sides of the oil and gas issue.

In a Denver Post Article Frank McNulty, a former Republican House Speaker and industry proponent said this about the process "Even if we have marginal movement that's a good thing. But I don't expect anything earth-shattering, and no one else that I've talked to does either."

Some Environmental Organizations have expressed disappointment that the recommendations did not go further to address the issues of local control in oil and gas development. Organizations like the Western Colorado Congress had members attend meetings, testify, and write public comments. Leslie Robinson, WCC Leader and Chair of the Grand Valley Citizen’s Alliance put it this way: “Concerned citizens came to the table willing to work towards solutions, but task force members with financial ties to the oil & gas industry have blocked any progressive measures to mitigate multi-well industrial impacts in residential areas.”

Current Law And Authority

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act, C.R.S. § 34-60-101, et seq., charges the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (“COGCC”) “Foster the responsible, balanced development, production, and utilization of the natural resources of oil and gas in the state of Colorado in a manner consistent with protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.” The COGCC has comprehensively updated its regulations to address both surface and subsurface protections.

At the same time, local jurisdictions have the duty to provide planned and orderly development within Colorado and have statutory authority to balance basic human needs and environmental concerns when regulating the use of land within their boundaries.

Colorado case law established the operational conflict rules. The Governor’s Executive Order says “Colorado case law has established preemption rules that create a priority between potentially conflicting laws enacted by various levels of government [. And] industry, the state and local jurisdictions have operated within the parameters established by the courts.” For more information on Colorado County and Municipal Law Page.

Task Force Proposed Recommendations

While the Oil and Gas Task Force sent only nine recommendations to the Governor, the members originally put forward fifty-six proposals, several of which received a majority of votes. Some of these proposals were withdrawn by the author or combined with another recommendation and thirty-five recommendations were reevaluated by Task Force members (see Proposed Recommendations for February 24th.) These recommendations were divided into subject matter categories:

Land-use, Including Siting Decisions:

Recommendation to establish an urban planning process.

Recommendation to facilitate collaboration of local governments, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and operators relative to oil and gas locations & urban planning.

Recommendation that COGCC conduct a rulemaking process to deal with impacts of multiwell production facilities on communities.

Recommendation to include future oil and gas drilling and production facilities in existing local comprehensive planning process.

Recommendation to require residential drilling plans.

Recommendation to coordinate local government land use processes with issuance of state oil and gas permits.

Recommendation to adopt a state and amend COGCC rules to acknowledge local government regulatory role in siting of wells and production facilities and create an oil and gas dispute resolution panel.

Recommendation to amend regulations to acknowledge local government siting authority.

Recommendation to enhance the local government liaison and local government designee roles and functions.

Recommendation to allow local governments to assess fees to fund inspections and monitoring of the oil and gas industry.

Recommendation to facilitate planning for oil and gas development and provide flexibility in locating wells.

Recommendation to amend COGCC rules to acknowledge local government regulatory authority.

Recommendation to amend Oil and Gas Conservation Act to acknowledge local authority.

Recommendation to have the General Assembly enact legislation to improve the operational conflict preemption standard governing the relationship between state and local regulatory authority over oil and gas development.

Recommendation to clarify the balanced responsibilities of the commission, and to acknowledge the important role of local government land use.

Recommendation to facilitate collaboration of local governments, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and operators relative to oil and gas locations. Recommendation regarding use of memorandum of understanding.

Recommendation to amend comprehensive drilling plan rules to harmonize state and local authority.

Recommendation to minimize residential conflicts.

COGCC Resources:

Recommendation to increase COGCC full time staff, including inspectors, field operators, enforcement, and permitting staff.

Health and Monitoring:

Recommendation related to CDPHE staffing, a health complaint line, a human health risk assessment, and a mobile air quality monitoring unit.

Recommendation to protect the public from possible negative health impacts from fracking and drilling for oil and natural gas.

Surface Owners:

Recommendation to assure adequate compensation to affected surface owners – statutory.

Recommendation to assure adequate compensation to affected surface owners – regulatory.


Full and public disclosure of the chemicals and concentrations of chemicals used in oil and gas operations.

Recommendation to improve disclosure of hydraulic fracturing processes.

Recommendation to create an oil and gas information clearinghouse.

Nuisance-Dust, Noise, Traffic:

Allow counties to regulate noise associated with oil and gas operations.

Recommendation to enhance public health and safety from oil and gas development.

Recommendation to reduce truck traffic on public streets, roads, and highways for oil and gas activities.


Recommendation to general assembly regarding air quality rules.

Recommendation to require ongoing downgradient water quality and soil monitoring for oil and gas processing facilities.

Recommendation to implement a compliance assistance program.

Recommendation to delay further rulemaking subject areas that have recently been studied and for which new rules have been put in place so that experience may determine whether or not rule changes are effective.

Recommendation to create an Ombudsman.

Page created: 3-19-2015
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