Some say new legislation could compromise the economy on the Western Slope, and that is what brought oil and gas officials together Thursday.
There is no debate about how important the energy industry is to the Western Slope. Diane Schwenk of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce says, "The one unique thing that we have that is driving our economy is the energy sector; right now particularly the extractive industries."
But House Bills 1341 and 1298 passed last year which requires the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to formulate rules to better protect people and wildlife. Some of these rules involve the permit process for energy companies.
Duke Cox is Executive Director of the Western Colorado Congress and is in favor of more rules and regulations. He says, "That's what we're after is to make sure that the rules protect Colorado from people who will not necessarily do the right thing."
But many of the oil and gas giants are not happy with the way these laws are being enacted. Energy companies claim the commission is not following the intent of the legislation with its new proposal of rules. Dave Cesark with Williams says, "It was much more than a tweaking or a fine tuning. It was actually quite an overhaul, quite a broad sweeping overhaul of the regulation, and i think that's what has a lot of people in the industry concerned."
The concern has resulted in some people fearing the energy companies may choose to leave Colorado altogether. But the companies want to ensure Western Slope residents they have no intention of leaving at this time. Cesark says,"I'm sure we will have to adjust to the new rules and make it work our plans are certainly to move forward and continue to be a very strong force here in the Western Slope."
Rule making by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission must be completed by July.