CO gubernatorial hopefuls spar on oil, gas rules |

CO gubernatorial hopefuls spar on oil, gas rules

DENVER (AP) – Candidates in the Colorado governor’s race split Wednesday on how to handle the ongoing debate over the state’s tougher oil and gas rules, with one Republican pledging to revamp them and his Democrat rival calling for cooperation.

Republican Scott McInnis and Democrat John Hickenlooper both attended the annual meeting of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, a trade group.

McInnis, a former congressman, repeated his criticism of tougher rules approved last year as harmful to the industry.

The oil and gas association is suing to overturn the rules, which implement 2007 laws requiring more weight to be given to health, wildlife and environmental concerns when making decisions about oil and gas development.

McInnis accused Hickenlooper of taking different positions on the stricter regulations that were championed by Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter and bashed by the industry as punitive. Ritter is not seeking a second term.

“I have consistently said that these rules overreached, are onerous, have destroyed jobs and must be revised,” McInnis said.

Dan Maes, who is seeking the GOP nomination, has said he would overhaul the rules. He said during the forum Wednesday that in Colorado, “the economy must equal energy.”

Hickenlooper, Denver’s mayor, called for an end to the dispute, saying he would encourage collaboration among the various interest groups.

“Rewriting the rules is an invitation to litigation and polarization,” Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper’s spokesman, George Merritt, disputed that the Democrat has varied his stance on the oil and gas regulations. He said Hickenlooper was critical of how contentious the hearings on them were.

Hickenlooper has also said the industry should have had more input.

“He would not reopen the rules,” Merritt said. “What he’s talked about is providing for the (oil and gas) commission to take a look at issues. The rules provide for taking up issues.”

Ritter has defended the tougher regulations, saying the recession and lower commodity prices halted Colorado’s energy boom, not the rules.

The 2007 laws were passed amid record-breaking rates of natural gas drilling and complaints from landowners, conservationists, hunters and anglers about the impacts.

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