Micah Parkin Micah Parkin, November 16, 2015

Press Release: 350 Colorado Calls for Decommissioning of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission  No Tanks COGCC

Group says the COGCC is failing to fulfill its mission to protect public health, safety, and welfare  

DenverToday 350 Colorado, an organization dedicated to solving the climate crisis and transitioning to a sustainable future, delivered a statement calling for the decommissioning of the COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission). A representative of 350 Colorado delivered this statement during a hearing regarding rulemaking on the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendations 17 and 20. Numerous citizen groups and even members of the Task Force have expressed extreme frustration at the failure of the proposed rules, as crafted by the COGCC, to fulfill the intended purpose of the Task Force, which was to address conflicts between local communities and oil and gas developers.

In addition, 350 Colorado’s call for decommissioning the COGCC results from an ongoing pattern of the appointed body focusing on promoting the oil and gas industry at the expense of the other part of its mission – “protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including the environment and wildlife resources”. 350 Colorado asserts that the dual mission of the COGCC to also foster development of oil and gas resources, at a time when scientists say that 80% of fossil fuels must remain in the ground to stay below 2 degree Celsius temperature increase, is in fact at odds with its own dual mission to protect public health, safety and welfare, including environment and wildlife resources, and is out of touch with the scientific realities of the 21st century.

350 Colorado is launching a campaign calling for the decommissioning of the COGCC and the replacement of this body with two new state commissions – one charged with fostering Colorado’s rapid transition to a renewable energy sources and the efficient use of energy, and the other whose sole purpose is to protect public health and safety from existing and permitted oil and gas production facilities. 350 Colorado invites other organizations, individuals, and local governments to join in this campaign.

During her statement on behalf of 350 Colorado, group representative Lauren Swain said:

“We find that the proposed rules contain far too many flaws, failures, and harmful concepts to serve or advance the public interest, and therefore, we request that the rules be withdrawn and tabled, to avoid further harm to local democracy, public health and safety, and to the climate.

Indeed, with an awareness of the current scientific data and an awareness of the availability of affordable renewable energy sources, it becomes ever more clear that the fundamental premise of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act itself, i.e. that fostering oil and gas production is in the public interest, is baseless and harmful.

Given the growing body of data documenting unacceptable public health risks and harm to the climate caused by fossil fuel production and consumption, we submit that the public interest cannot and will not served by a body charged first and foremost with fostering the quote, “development, production, and utilization of the natural resources of oil and gas”, unquote. And these proposed rules provide stark evidence of that fact.

In fact, there is ample scientific evidence that the production and consumption of oil and gas, and the COGCC’s mission to foster oil and gas production, are directly opposed to the state interest.

Countries around the world, including the US, have committed to keeping the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees C. To do that, studies have determined that 80% of proven fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground.  Unfortunately, with the projected rates of fossil fuel production and consumption, we are currently on track for a catastrophic 5 degrees of warming – committing our children to a world that is inhospitable to life as we know it.

Colorado depends on the maintenance of a healthy, sustainable climate for its economic well-being, quality of life, and public safety. The public is endangered not only by the routine toxic and ozone-inducing emissions, spills, and risk of explosions that accompany current methods of oil and gas production but also by fires, droughts, and floods. And those harms carry a heavy price tag in terms of the cost of healthcare, emergency management, and the destruction of homes and business.  We cannot foster the extraction of fossil fuels and advocate for the state interest at the same time.

Proposing to confine the application of best management to limited areas demonstrates the deliberate failure of the COGCC to do what it can to protect the public from these threats as it promotes the drilling of more and more wells.  This is because the COGCC sees its mission as, first and foremost, to promote the drilling of more wells.

The states of New York and Vermont, and several countries in Europe have banned high volume hydraulic fracturing, the primary method used to extract oil and gas in the United States, because they did their homework on the risks and listened to their people. It is truly unacceptable that the state agency we depend on for our protection is instead protecting the fossil fuel industry by taking away the rights of Coloradans to lead and self-advocate in the same fashion.

As an organization formed to build the movement to maintain a livable climate, 350 Colorado supports voters and local governments taking the lead in transitioning to renewable energy sources and away from climate-disruptive fossil fuels. Because Colorado has already suffered devastating floods, fires, and droughts that have likely been aggravated by climate change, it is clearly in the state interest to support, not suppress, these local efforts.

Unfortunately, the proposed rules move in the opposition direction, curtailing climate leadership, and promoting more production and consumption of oil and gas, which inevitably delays the long-needed switch to renewables. We invite and encourage the state to support communities resisting large industrial drilling and fracking operations that are toxic, dangerous, and otherwise harmful to residents and to the climate.

Instead of limiting local leadership, the state should take the lead itself in transitioning to renewable energy, in protecting public health and safety from existing oil and gas operations, and in empowering communities to raise health and safety standards and and make their own contributions to promote renewable energy and efficiency, in order to to take these positive strategies to the next level.

To promote the public and state interest, we at 350 Colorado will be contacting our legislators in the coming months to advocate for the decommissioning of the COGCC and termination of its mission to foster oil and gas production.  In the interest of our health and our future, will ask that the COGCC be replaced with two state commissions, one charged with fostering Colorado’s quick transition to a renewable energy sources and the efficient use of energy, and the other whose sole purpose is to protect public health and safety from existing and permitted oil and gas production facilities.  And we will be inviting organizations, individuals, and local governments to join us in this campaign. ”



For a full transcript of the statement, click here.

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