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Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission begins two days of meetings before election

Posted at 6:26 AM, Oct 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-29 20:42:20-04

DENVER – The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) will hold its final meetings this week, and will look at dozens of oil and gas drilling applications set to be approved.

Supporters and opponents of Proposition 112 turned Monday's public comment session into a political rally, with both sides presenting their arguments to the board.

Critics also called out the commission for reviewing more than 100 drilling applications eight days before the election, when voters will weigh in on Proposition 112. 

The statewide ballot measure imposes tougher restrictions on new drilling by increasing the setback to 2,500 feet from homes, schools, and water sources – five times the current setbacks of 500 and 1,000 feet. 

The sites that are already in operation, however, would be grandfathered in.

Critics of Monday and Tuesday’s COGCC meetings accuse the commission of trying to rush dozens of permits through at the 11th hour so that they too might be grandfathered into the system if Proposition 112 passes. They have even asked Gov. John Hickenlooper to block the meeting entirely.

However, a COGCC spokesperson said the COGCC is not approving drilling permits, saying instead that they are approving spacing applications and that alone is not enough for an oil company to begin drilling. The oil companies would still have to apply for a permit that is approved by COGCC staff. 

The spokesperson, Travis Duncan, told Denver7, "Nothing has changed to stop COGCC from performing business as usual."  

As for what happens to any newly approved applications, if Prop 112 passes. COGCC said that would be left up to the next attorney general to interpret the measure and implications moving forward. 

"The Commission and its staff have the responsibility to act as guided by current law, as does the Governor," governor's office spokesperson Jacque Montgomery said in a statement. "A change in process prior to a possible change in law would be inappropriate. If the voters change the law, the Commission and its staff will implement those changes when they go into effect."