Scott McInnis and Dan Maes, the two remaining GOP gubernatorial candidates, won’t even wait to see how new, environmentally tougher oil and gas drilling regulations work during an actual gas boom, according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, instead promising to yank the regs as quickly as possible if elected.
Painstakingly drafted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission over two years with most stakeholders — including industry representatives — at the table, the new rules give higher priority to wildlife habitat, air and water quality and public health when considering drilling permits. The State Legislature approved the new regs last spring.
McInnis, a former six-term Republican congressman representing the state’s Western Slope, is an attorney whose Denver firm regularly represents the oil and gas industry. He predicted the natural gas bust in late 2008, although he admitted it would have a great deal to do with the looming global recession and subsequent plunge in commodity prices.
A spokesman for McInnis told the Sentinel the new regulations, which have not been tested during the actual gas boom conditions they were designed to mitigate, are punitive to the industry, although McInnis would at least have “a conversation with people from the environment and energy industries before wiping the new regulations completely from the commission rules.”
No mention of whether he would have conversations with Western Slope residents weary of the industrialization of their communities and surrounding mountain vistas, or those sickened by the byproducts of drilling.
The drilling regs became a political hot potato over the summer, with Democrats blaming the economy for the gas bust and Republicans promising retribution, but even industry officials legally challenging the regs point to them as a reason for rejecting proposed federal oversight of the drilling practice called hydraulic fracturing. In other words, the state regs have fracking covered; now let’s get rid of those state regs.
Maes, an Evergreen businessman, has already made up his mind on the regs, telling the Sentinel he would work to repeal them right away, but he did at least promise to personally fly to the site of any oil and gas rig alleged to be causing environmental problems – an interesting offer given his admission he lacks the funding to compete with McInnis on the campaign trail, and recent Republican attacks on Gov. Bill Ritter’s state aircraft travel habits.