In March, Colorado House Minority Leader Rep. Hugh McKean (R-Loveland) said that while he hoped Colorado would increase oil and gas production and expedite the drilling permit approval process, he approved of the oil and gas regulations currently in place.
McKean was responding to comments on his own Facebook post which called for Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) to increase domestic oil and gas production.
In response to a Facebook comment that called for loosening environmental regulations on oil and gas producers, McKean defended the regulations, saying the problem lies with the number of drilling permits approved by the state of Colorado.
“I’m actually not saying loosen regulations,” McKean said. “In fact, the answer to the question about what it would take to produce more has been to leave in place the current [regulations] and expedite permits, giving the investment community the surety to invest capital in those projects. We have everything we need to secure our energy independence and we have good regulations. Now we need to get moving.”
Colorado has some of the strictest environmental regulations on oil and gas producers in the U.S., although some environmental advocacy groups point out that isn’t saying much when compared to the lax regulations in other states and worry about the enforceability of the regulations. Visit the websites of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association for more in-depth explanations of Colorado’s environmental regulations.
In 2019, the mission of the COGCC was radically redefined by the passage of Colorado Senate Bill 19-181. The COGCC was tasked with regulating the oil and gas industry in order to protect the state’s people, wildlife, and environment from the effects of oil and gas production. McKean voted against the passage of the bill.
The week before his Facebook post, McKean released a statement calling on Polis and Joe Biden to reverse harmful energy policies to restore America’s energy independence. In the statement, McKean called these environmental regulations “restrictive.”
“In the last few weeks while our national inflation rate continues to rise, we’ve been seeing nearly record-breaking prices at the pump,” McKean said. “The families of Colorado cannot afford this. We cannot afford these restrictive energy policies. Adjusting these policies and allowing Colorado to lead the nation in energy production is one way to address the cost of living in Colorado. Producing and exporting our energy will bring stability and increased capital to Colorado’s economy.”
McKean did not respond to multiple requests for comment asking about his change of heart regarding environmental regulations. This story will be updated with a comment from McKean if one is provided.
By blaming high gas prices on environmental regulations McKean followed other prominent Republicans in the state like U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Colorado GOP Chair Kristi Burton Brown. In a fact check published by the Colorado Times Recorder last month, energy experts and independent fact-checkers debunked this claim.
It should also be noted that while McKean called for the COGCC to approve more oil and gas drilling permits, Colorado oil producers have nearly 3,000 approved permits ready to drill on, but are unlikely to do so due to interests from wall street investors. In addition, since his election in 2018 Polis has approved over 4,000 oil and gas permits.
Achieving energy independence has long been a talking point among Republican politicians, but energy market experts have pointed out that oil and gas producers tend to focus on CEO salaries and the demands of investors instead of responding to changes in global supply or to the dangers posed by global warming. They also point out that the oil and gas industry is exporting crude oil and refined fuels at a near-record rate.