Editorial: Now it’s up to Colorado’s energy industry to propose a new code of conduct

Will Colorado’s energy sector step up? That’s the question after voters on Nov. 6 defeated Proposition 112, which would have devastated the state’s $31 billion oil-and-gas industry. The measure would have imposed setbacks of 2,500 feet on any new drilling operations, compared with the 500-foot requirement today.

That increase would have effectively halted oil-and-gas drilling operations in the state, thereby decimating the industry. For that reason, BizWest opposed 112, and we were gratified that it failed by more than 200,000 votes.

Now, however, it’s up the energy sector to come forward with reasonable measures that would alleviate citizen concerns. Failure to do so will feed anger among voters who worry about drilling activity too close to homes, schools and other buildings.

Measures that could be put forth would fall under several categories, including health, safety and politics. And the industry would do well to consider that last item very carefully.

While oil-and-gas companies probably could get away with some projects legally, they should collectively adopt a code of conduct that limits drilling in certain areas, including publicly owned open space and recreational areas.

Instead, Crestone Peak Resources proposed drilling on Boulder County open space. Highlands Natural Resources Corp. proposed drilling under the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge and under Standley Lake in Westminster, though it subsequently withdrew both requests. The Rocky Flats plans angered residents in Superior, Arvada, Boulder and beyond. Add to that opposition in Westminster, and the company single-handedly sparked the ire of voters in at least four communities.

That’s not smart politics.

We submit that Colorado’s energy companies should adopt a new code of conduct, one that:

  • Prohibits drilling beneath publicly owned open space, recreational areas or wildlife refuges.
  • Increases the setback from 500 feet to perhaps 1,000 feet for some buildings.
  • Inventories all abandoned wells and creates a fund to inspect and plug any that do not meet modern health and safety standards.
  • Restricts surface activity within a respectful distance from waterways
  • Vastly increases outreach to the community, providing information on the sector and responds quickly to citizen complaints, questions and concerns.

These are just some ideas. But executives at the state’s energy companies — and the state Legislature — would do well to consider these and other measures. Otherwise, opponents of the energy industry very likely will come back to the ballot with new draconian restrictions.

Will Colorado’s energy sector step up? That’s the question after voters on Nov. 6 defeated Proposition 112, which would have devastated the state’s $31 billion oil-and-gas industry. The measure would have imposed setbacks of 2,500 feet on any new drilling operations, compared with the 500-foot requirement today.

That increase would have effectively halted oil-and-gas drilling operations in the state, thereby decimating the industry. For that reason, BizWest opposed 112, and we were gratified that it failed by more than 200,000 votes.

Now, however, it’s up the energy sector to come forward with reasonable measures that would alleviate citizen concerns. Failure to do so will feed anger among voters who worry about drilling activity too close to homes, schools and other buildings.

Measures that could be put forth would fall under several categories, including health, safety and politics. And the industry would do well to consider that last item very carefully.

While oil-and-gas companies probably could get away with some projects legally, they should collectively adopt a code of conduct that limits drilling in certain areas, including publicly owned open space and recreational areas.

Instead, Crestone Peak Resources proposed drilling on Boulder County open space. Highlands Natural Resources Corp. proposed drilling under the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge and under Standley Lake in Westminster, though it subsequently withdrew both requests. The Rocky Flats plans angered residents in Superior, Arvada, Boulder and beyond. Add to that opposition in Westminster, and the company single-handedly sparked the ire…