Ritter: More views needed on drilling | VailDaily.com

Ritter: More views needed on drilling

Dennis Webb
Vail, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Gov. Bill Ritter said Monday that regulatory reforms he is proposing are a direct response to concerns he has heard in Garfield County about the effects of energy development on air and water quality.

Those reforms and others under consideration by the state Legislature should not prove too burdensome for producers of natural gas and other energy, he said.

“We’re hopeful that we can keep this industry still an industry that thrives,” Ritter said.

Ritter’s administration has proposed changing the makeup of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates oil and gas development in the state, to reduce the number of industry representatives and add members focused on such as wildlife, public health and the environment.

The proposal also better balances the commission’s mission by having it treat oil and gas as a resource “and at the same time make sure we pay attention to air and water and land impacts,” Ritter said.

Numerous bills are being considered in the legislature to try to reduce the negative effects of oil and gas development. Ritter thinks many of them can make small differences, but changing the oil and gas commission’s makeup and mission would get to the root of the problem, Ritter said.

“The fact of the matter is that I think the commission is central to deciding how we go forward and at what pace we go forward,” he said.

Ritter has heard the energy industry complain that it is “under siege” as a result of all the regulatory reforms state lawmakers are considering, but he doesn’t believe the legislative process will harm the fast-growing industry, he said.

Ritter believes Colorado can play a continually increasing role in meeting the nation’s natural gas needs. He said California has pointed to natural gas as fitting in with its clean energy mandate.

Ritter said his administration has been talking to the industry, and he feels he can manage the legislative process “in a way that the industry will not only exist but thrive at the end of the day.”

Ritter said the place he would most like to take people in Colorado during the Democratic National Convention in Denver next year would be the Roan Plateau near Rifle. He called the plateau a great example of an untapped energy resource but also a place “that would incur significant damage if we’re not extremely careful how we go forward with the exploration and extraction.”

Ritter also has met with people in the private sector about oil shale development and is worried about the amount of water and energy that the industry would require. “We’ve expressed our concerns and had very productive conversations,” he said.

Ritter touted several advances on alternative energy fronts, including passage by the Legislature of a bill requiring Colorado utilities to provide 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources, up from 10 percent now. Ritter plans to sign the measure.

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