The oil and gas industry has spent millions of dollars in Colorado over the last several years on an ad campaign portraying the industry as a collection of fourth-generation Colorado tree-huggers whose highest priorities are preserving an unspoiled environment and getting along with their neighbors.

The reality on the ground is somewhat different.

This is how the system currently works: An oil and gas company decides where it wants to drill. It then goes to the state and gets a permit, a permit that is never denied. With state permit in hand, the company goes to the local government and demands access consistent with its state permit. If the local government or residents resist, the company threatens litigation.

Litigation, of course, is the opposite of cooperation. Yet that is what oil and gas industry representatives threaten, time after time after time, whenever residents and their local governments attempt to use local zoning procedures to get a say in where the drill rigs are located.

A company’s “consultation” with local residents and their city councils or county commissions on siting decisions generally amounts to the company telling residents where they are going to drill ahead of time. Many times that means in the middle of a neighborhood or near a school.

Impacted residents are cut out of this process. They naturally go to their local elected officials to express their opinions, only to be told there is little that can be done.

No other industry in Colorado has that kind of power. Oil and gas is the only industry that has been exempted, by law, from the local zoning process, where local residents have input about land-use decisions in their neighborhoods.

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