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Public hearing to be held Friday in Durango about future oil and gas regulations

A 2019 law transitions state commission toward regulation of industry
A 2017 picture of an abandoned oil well near Red Mesa, 30 miles southwest of Durango. Since the 2019 passing of Senate Bill 181, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is focusing on the regulation of the industry.

Southwest Coloradans will have the opportunity to weigh in on state changes to the regulation of the oil and gas industry and provide crucial regional feedback Friday.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will hold a stakeholder outreach meeting open to public comment from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at the La Plata County Administration Building.

The meeting will focus on last year’s Senate Bill 181, which shifted the focus of Colorado’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from fostering energy development to regulating the industry while prioritizing the protection of public health, safety and the environment. The bill was considered a turning point for oil and gas development in Colorado.

The commission’s director, Jeff Robbins, will discuss an overview of the rulemaking changes required under the new law and the commission’s progress in drafting those rules. The meeting will then open for public comment.

Robbins, a former Durango attorney who previously worked as outside counsel for the La Plata County government, started with COGCC in 2019 after being tapped by Gov. Jared Polis. Robbins was tasked with drafting the commission’s new rules that reflect the stipulations of SB 181.

“It’s where I started,” Robbins said of La Plata County. “And now that I’m in charge of the commission, I wanted to make sure Southwest Colorado had a voice in the efforts we’re doing.”

While Robbins acknowledged oil and gas has declined in the county since 2010, there are about 3,400 wells in the area today. He said, “Part of doing this right is hearing from stakeholders on what we’re doing.”

In addition to traveling throughout the state for public comment hearings, COGCC also established a temporary volunteer board through June, with members from varied geographies and disciplines like public health, environment, agriculture, local government, wildlife, and the oil and gas industry. One of the volunteer members is Liane Jollon, executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health.

The temporary commission will be replaced in July with a five-member professional board. Robbins said the commission is accepting applications for the new board members, which will represent a diverse geographic area and background.

For those unable to attend the input meeting Friday but wanting to provide public comment, the COGCC has an online comment portal and the meeting will be streamed on its website.


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