The Post editorial: Lo­cal is­sues, lo­cal meet­ings

The Denver Post - - NEWS -

It is some­times said that there is a fine line be­tween ge­nius and mad­ness. A sim­i­lar ob­ser­va­tion can be made about well-in­ten­tioned pro­grams when they come up sorely lack­ing in ef­fec­tive­ness.

A pair of Colorado agen­cies — which over­see oil and gas, and man­age­ment of state parks and wildlife — are fac­ing heat for hold­ing hear­ings far from the com­mu­ni­ties that wish to weigh in. Reg­u­la­tors at the Colorado Oil & Gas Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion and Colorado Parks and Wildlife ought to re­think and re­vise a prac­tice meant to cre­ate greater trans­parency and con­ve­nience for res­i­dents so that it ac­tu­ally ac­com­plishes those laud­able goals.

Res­i­dents and city of­fi­cials in Broom­field wish to par­tic­i­pate in COGCC hear­ings regarding spac­ing ap­pli­ca­tions from Ex­trac­tion Oil and Gas. But the com­mis­sion has sched­uled the mid-Septem­ber hear­ings in Du­rango, which is roughly 350 miles away.

Hold­ing the hear­ings in Du­rango isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a ne­far­i­ous plot. The com­mis­sion has for some time sought to bol­ster trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity by hold­ing hear­ings around the state. The ra­tio­nale is sound and praise­wor­thy. In­stead of mak­ing the trip and thereby mak­ing res­i­dents from the far reaches of the state drive all the way to the Mile High City to at­tend hear­ings on mat­ters im­por­tant to their com­mu­ni­ties, the COGCC holds some hear­ings in di­verse pock­ets of the state.

Such a pol­icy is also not easy for com­mis­sion­ers and staff. Fur­ther, go­ing on the road re­quires tax­payer in­vest­ment; as such, that money and time should be spent re­spon­si­bly.

Given those con­cerns, it would seem the sched­ule is too ran­dom for its own good, as those con­cerned about the mat­ter in Broom­field have dis­cov­ered. This week Broom­field’s city coun­cil agreed to ask the com­mis­sion to move the hear­ings back to the Den­ver area.

Yes, ac­tivists op­posed to oil and gas de­vel­op­ment can be dif­fi­cult for the com­mis­sion. Only last month we de­cried what be­came a failed ef­fort to re­call the Broom­field mayor pro tem not for mis­con­duct, but for “fail­ure to sup­port oil and gas lo­cal con­trol.”

And yes, ac­tivists of­ten be­devil the com­mis­sion with le­gal chal­lenges and civil dis­obe­di­ence.

That’s no rea­son to even ap­pear to be dodg­ing has­sle and com­plaint by hold­ing oil and gas hear­ings that af­fect Broom­field in an en­tirely dif­fer­ent part of the state.

Sim­i­larly, in Fort Collins, res­i­dents wish to at­tend Parks and Wildlife hear­ings about a mit­i­ga­tion plan for the Cache La Poudre River. It’s not hard to guess why they are dis­grun­tled over the de­ci­sion to hold the hear­ings in Trinidad — more than 260 miles away.

As Save the Poudre’s di­rec­tor, Gary Wock­ner, puts it: “We’ve been ac­cused of be­ing very loud, but even if we are scream­ing, I don’t think the com­mis­sion­ers will hear us in Trinidad. We re­quest a hearing in Fort Collins.”

We get it that bois­ter­ous pub­lic meet­ings can make it tough for com­mis­sion­ers. The dy­namic comes with the ter­ri­tory. But we are firm be­liev­ers in pub­lic ac­cess, and the spirit of pro­vid­ing that ac­cess should dic­tate that meet­ings and hear­ings of great im­por­tance to a com­mu­nity be held in ways that com­mu­nity has a rea­son­able chance to take part. The mem­bers of The Den­ver Post’s editorial board are Wil­liam Dean Sin­gle­ton, chair­man; Mac Tully, CEO and pub­lisher; Chuck Plun­kett, ed­i­tor of the editorial pages; Megan Schrader, editorial writer; and Cohen Peart, opin­ion ed­i­tor.

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