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Colorado Editorial Roundup

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 4, 2015 at 12:41 pm •  Published: March 4, 2015

A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:

The Tribune, March 4, on new rules to prepare energy installations for flooding:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission struck the right balance Monday when it issued new rules for oil and gas drillers in the state about preparing for the effects of a flood.

The commission, which oversees drilling in the state, adopted the new rules that require all new wells to be equipped with technology allowing them to be shut down remotely in case floodwaters keep crews from getting to a site. New and existing oilfield tanks and other equipment also will have to be anchored to resist toppling or floating away. Operators also must install barriers to protect equipment from flood debris.

Significantly, though, the panel rejected a request that it grant local government the authority to impose stricter rules. It also rejected suggestions that it work to discourage companies from drilling wells or installing storage tanks in flood-prone areas.

The rules came after five hours of testimony and discussion that furthered the debate that's been part of a statewide conversation about the role local governments should play with regard to the oil and gas industry, especially in questions about where wells, tanks and other equipment should be located.

Matt Lepore, director of the commission, said the staff wanted to focus on mitigating flood damage, not the location of wells and tanks. Lepore said any questionable location issues could be dealt with in the regular process of approving permits.

We think that's the right approach. We're not likely to have good answers anytime soon about where the line ought to be drawn on questions involving the rights of local communities, property owners and mineral rights holders. That discussion formed the bulwark of the governor's Oil and Gas Task Force debates for six months, and no clearcut answers were found.

It's good that the commission stayed focused on flood mitigation with these rules, instead of getting drawn into yet another round of the seemingly endless debate.

The new rules also require oil companies to give the state a list of their equipment in any 100-year floodplain and to keep an emergency response plan.

The Oil and Gas Conservation Commission chose to review its flood rules after heavy rains pushed rivers out of their banks along the Front Range in September 2013.

More than 48,000 gallons of oil and 43,000 gallons of polluted water spilled from overturned or damaged tanks during the flooding. About 2,650 wells were shut down, but officials said no significant leaks came directly from them.

Of course, it's worth noting that while Weld County faced myriad challenges when the rivers overflowed their banks in 2013, there were virtually no serious problems with oil and gas. The damage to the sewage processing plant in Evans, for example, proved more challenging than oil spills.

Still, that doesn't mean we may not face a problem in a future flood. It's best to be prepared. We think these rules offer reasonable precautions for the future without adding undue burdens to producers or hampering the rights of mineral owners.



The Daily Sentinel, March 4, on services offered at the Mesa County workforce center:

Congress overhauled the federal program that funds workforce centers last year, presenting an opportunity for the Mesa County Workforce Center to shed a layer of state oversight and achieve even greater local control.

The local workforce center already enjoyed more autonomy than other counties in the Colorado Rural Workforce Consortium because it sought an exclusion that allowed it to report to its own Workforce Investment Board. Other workforce centers in the 52-county consortium are run by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

The advantage for Mesa County is that its Department of Human Services administers the workforce center, allowing collaboration between employment services, vocational training and public assistance — programs that a jobless person might have trouble accessing if they weren't conveniently located under one roof.

That's not the case everywhere and the federal government is trying to get more workforce centers to integrate more services as Mesa County has done. The Workforce Investment Act of 2014 allows for any local area to request, from the governor, to be designated as a federally recognized workforce region, which means more decision-making at the local level.

Even though the Mesa County Workforce Center has its own board, it still operates under the authority and expectations of the rural consortium, which can be constricting. The local board had to fight "tooth and nail" to form a healthcare career ladder through a partnership with CMU and Western Colorado Community College, said Tracy Garchar, executive director of the Mesa County Department of Human Services. A change in designation will provide more flexibility and control to tailor programs to the needs of local clients without jumping through state hoops.

The local area must have an institution of higher learning in the community and demonstrate it can responsibly handle the federal funding that goes to the center. The Mesa County Workforce Center meets the criteria but must get the support of local municipalities. One of the requirements of the legislation is assuring the governor that seeking a change in designation will not be contested by any municipalities.

The Grand Junction City Council is on board and Garchar will seek approval from Fruita and Palisade. We can't imagine anyone opposing the idea, especially since the workforce center is able to leverage state and federal programs to move people from welfare to work. A change in designation would allow more local partnerships to achieve that outcome.

But we remind readers that the demand for services provided by the workforce center is a reflection of workforce development efforts. We need to do more to develop a highly educated and highly trained workforce to ensure a prosperous community.


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