A commission charged with finding legislative solutions to issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing met for the first time on Sept. 25, with members acknowledging the arduous task ahead.
“I think it goes without saying we have a tremendous task …
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“I think it goes without saying we have a tremendous task and challenge, a very difficult task ahead of us, and we should not be naive to think that it won't be challenging,” said Randy Cleveland, a task force co-chairman and president of XTO Energy.
The 19-member task force met inside the Colorado Division of Wildlife headquarters in Denver, less than a month after members were appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The governor briefly addressed members to wish them well in crafting solutions to issues that have yet to yield a compromise.
“Despite the differences — and I know there's a lot of difficult negotiations ahead of you all and a lot of different history — I think you guys can do it,” Hickenlooper said.
The goal of the task force will be to come up with recommendations to the Legislature that would deal with issues involving fracking — the process by which water and chemicals are blasted into the ground to free up trapped oil and gas.
Fracking has turned into perhaps the most contentious issue in Colorado, with some communities having voted to place restrictions or moratoriums on oil and gas drilling.
Those opposed to fracking have concerns about the potential impact that drilling could have on the environment and on public health. Supporters of fracking believe drilling is safe and point to the creation of jobs and its positive economic impact on the state.
The task force was born out of a compromise Hickenlooper reached with Democratic Congressman Jared Polis that resulted in anti-fracking initiatives being pulled from the November ballot.
The measures could have resulted in significant restrictions on fracking operations in the state, which relies heavily on oil and gas dollars.
The diverse task force is made up of representatives from industries that include oil and gas, agriculture and home builders. Conservation groups also will be represented, as will local governments.
Much of the Sept. 25 meeting was spent going over ground rules and objectives, with each member providing brief comments about the importance of avoiding conflict during the meetings.
“I believe we are embarking on a very serious endeavor and I ask that we give it all we got,” said Gwen Lachelt, commission co-chair and La Plata County commissioner.
The task force is scheduled to meet six more times over the next five months, with public meetings scheduled across the state.
The commission is expected to provide recommendations to the Legislature by March.
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