Who Can Regulate Oil and Gas Production in Colorado?

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Who Can Regulate Oil and Gas Production in Colorado?


Colorado is one of the top energy producing states in the U.S. This oil and natural gas development has come with some pushback, however. Local governments are attempting to impose restrictions on oil and gas producers. State courts have generally struck down these local rules, saying such regulatory power lies with the state government. This issue could come to a head on November’s ballot.


Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, oil and gas production has thrived over the last decade in Colorado. Some residents have pushed their local governments to enact new setbacks for oil and gas drilling rigs or imposes other restrictions on how this energy development can proceed. Some activists are also working with local governments to restrict or ban hydraulic fracturing, which they contend is dangerous.


When cities or counties enact these rules, the energy companies affected have argued that the state government has the authority to regulate oil and gas drilling. They have generally found sympathy from the state’s judiciary, which has ruled that state laws and regulations pre-empt local efforts to enact rules government energy production. The state Supreme Court struck down two high-profile city ordinances that would have banned oil drilling or placed a moratorium on it.


Currently, some Coloradans are collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would enshrine the state power over energy production rules in the state constitution. They say it is necessary to end any confusion that exists over whether or not local governments have this regulatory power. They further contend that there should be one set of rules for energy production across the state, not a hodge-podge of local regulations. Opponents of this measure counter that doing this would remove any potential for local elected officials to respond to their constituents’ concerns over oil and gas drilling.


The backers of this initiative have until early August to collect enough signatures. If they do so, Colorado voters will have the chance to decide in November at what level of government energy production rules should be made. 


Do you think that the state government should set uniform rules for oil and gas production in Colorado? Or should local governments have the power to set oil and gas drilling rules that are tailored to meet their unique circumstances?


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