Bill Ritter Moves To Shorten Waiting Period For Natural Gas Drilling Applications

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Governor Bill Ritter is moving to shorten the waiting period for oil and gas permits in Colorado after facing criticism from Republican opponents that the slow permitting process is killing Colorado jobs.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports that Don Marostica, the Governor's Director of Economic Development, will be surveying oil and gas companies in the coming weeks on the problems they see in the permitting process. He then plans to discuss his findings with the state's regulatory body, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

From the Daily Sentinel:

"It's a job situation. What I've told the permit guys is that it's just unacceptable how long it's taking," Marostica said.

He said he's awaiting more information about the problem from some of the state's biggest oil and gas producers. He then plans to meet with the industry and Dave Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

The industry had predicted new state oil and gas rules that Ritter championed would slow permit processing and make it more expensive. Susan Alvillar, spokeswoman for Williams Production, said that has proven true.

Former congressman and Republican Gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, has made Ritter's regulations on the oil and gas industry a central theme of his campaign, arguing that new rules, which took effect in April, have discouraged energy companies from investing in Colorado projects.

Ritter's Chief of Staff, Jim Carpenter told the Huffington Post on November 4 that "the downturn in natural gas production is directly tied to price."

In October, the Governor's spokesman, Evan Dreyer said that new state regulations "have nothing to do with the fact that this state needed to modernize the rules and regulations around drilling, so the more anyone tries to make an argument that the rules are somehow to blame for the decline in drilling activity, it's an overreach, it's completely untrue, and people are seeing it for what it is, which is political opportunism."

Dave Neslin, Director of the COGCC, told the Daily Sentinel that the new rules were not directly to blame for the delayed permit reviews. Rather, "it's the result of a backlog created by the 1,500 permit applications companies filed in March in order to have them processed under the old rules."

The new regulations, which went into effect in April after a fierce legislative battle, force oil and gas companies to disclose more information about chemicals used in the drilling process. They were were championed by environmental groups as a means of protecting public health and the environment.

Before to the implementation of the new regulations, oil and gas permits increased 8 fold in the previous decade.