EDITOR: The Sentinel editorial board is way off base in its interpretation of a recent Colorado Supreme Court decision pertaining to oil and gas regulations.
Like most opponents of the oil and gas industry, they try to position this ruling as a blow to public health and safety. However, the justices simply found that the legislature’s intent was “to minimize adverse impacts to public health and the environment while at the same time ensuring that oil and gas development, production, and utilization could proceed in an economical manner.”
Yet the Sentinel goes so far as to falsely state that “the law currently says regulators can’t ensure public safety when it comes to permitting petroleum drilling and fracking, because if a ruling costs the industry money, public welfare isn’t worth it.”
The law actually doesn’t say that at all. The reality is that agencies issue a lot of rulings that cost the industry money. And the law merely requires the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to consider the cost-effectiveness and technical feasibility of implementing a certain regulation.
It is common sense that an operator shouldn’t be required to implement a technology that isn’t proven or isn’t reliable, and regulations providing the most value should be prioritized over more costly options yielding fewer benefits.
It is also worth noting that the requirement to consider costs and benefits is found in most regulatory systems, including those at the federal level.
For example, the Safe Drinking Water Act requires the EPA to conduct a cost-benefit analysis when considering regulatory requirements. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Effective regulations, such as Colorado’s, can effectively protect public health and safety while also allowing us to reap the economic benefits of a robust energy economy.