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State Oil and Gas Commission meeting reaches a fever pitch over public comment rule change

Posted at 5:54 PM, Jan 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-29 20:06:18-05

DENVER -- The debate over new oil and gas development close to homes is reaching a fever pitch in Colorado and those emotions were on full display during a heated Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) meeting Monday.

As dozens packed the meeting hall to have their voices heard, a lot of people grew frustrated with a recent rule change to public comment. Many people saw as a way to quiet the opposition.

The new rule change limits public comment to two hours at the beginning of each meeting, and then after the commission finishes its business for the day.

Each speaker is also limited to three minutes, and must sign up online days before the meeting to secure their spot. Those who sign up online are given priority to speak during the hearing's public comment period.

The new rules also say those who don't sign up in advance can still sign up the day of the hearing, but the Commission may limit their time for comment or chose not to accept all walk-in commenterS based on the total time allowed for public comment.

"I don't think anyone feels that their voices are heard whatsoever and it's criminal," Boulder resident Marcia Kohler said.

Many of the people at Monday's meeting saw the rule change as an effort to silence their concerns, which added to the frustration and anger.

Denver7 witnessed two different occasions where police officers hired for security had to step in and threaten to clear the room.

The Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission said it made the rule change in response to a significant increase in the volume of public comment at its regularly scheduled hearings.

"To maximize its limited hearing time, and balance its regulatory obligations with its commitment to hear from the public, the Commission is instituting changes to its public comment processes," COGCC wrote in a statement posted online about the changes.

Commissioners also told the packed room that the changes are very fluid, and are a work in progress.

The first public comment portion of Monday's meeting ended with people in the crowd shouting "change the rules" as commissioners threatened to clear the room.

"These new rules for public comment are absurd. There are hundreds of people who have not been heard," one person yelled from the crowd.