Senate Dems Hold Together As Drilling Reform Passes

As the Denver Post reports, the 2019’s biggest legislative battle is over in the Colorado Senate:

Senate Bill 181 is one of the most hotly debated issues in front of the General Assembly this year. Wednesday’s final vote followed a day-long debate. Before the bill goes to Gov. Jared Polis for his signature, the state House, which is considered far more liberal than the Senate, must debate the bill as well…

Among the changes, the bill would make is changing the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to protect public health and safety. Supporters of the bill also say the bill will ensure more local control over oil and gas regulations.

Republican state Sen. John Cooke of Weld County, which has more extraction operations than any other part of the state, said the bill flies in the face of local control.

Today’s final passage of Senate Bill 19-181 in the Senate brings something of an anticlimactic end to days of intense drama, that saw Senate Republicans pull out all the stops to oppose this bill–including an attempt to stall the process by forcing a 2,000 technical bill to be read at length. That attempt was foiled by clever thinking from Senate Democrats to employ computers to read it at lightning speed, and even though Republicans successfully appealed to a district judge over that “solution” to their obstruction Democratic majority’s control of the calendar put the tactic to rest for the time being.

In the end, all 19 Democrats in the Senate voted unanimously to pass the bill, which can be regarded as a significant victory for caucus discipline in the face of formidable lobbying pressure from arguably the state’s most politically activist industry. Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg allowed amendments to the bill that, while they did not in the allow persuade any Republicans to vote for the bill, earned praise from Republican leadership that contrasted starkly with the acrimony of the last couple of weeks.

And with that the bill goes to the House, where although the debate will be no less acrimonious–as it would be with or without the Senate’s amendments–the outcome is not a close question. This major win for Democrats, on a policy issue that has vexed the state for years under control of both parties, is all but in the books.


20 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. It sounds like this came our pretty good in the end. I like the changes to the local control measures; Republican Senators got some legislative input that will, I think, make the bill both stronger and less of a dog-whistle for the recall/secede fanatics.

  2. MADCO says:


    But al those O&G guys – too bad they have to leave Colorado now  <smh>

  3. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Phoenix Rising makes good points. But will the bill, with those pro-active changes, be enough to satisfy the 112 backers from Colorado Rising? The authors of the initiative made it clear they will be back with another initiative in 2020 if the legislature doesn't give them everything they want.

    • kwtreemamajama55 says:

      It really depends on the enforcement. We already had law on the books that drillers had to disclose pollution, and had to be inspected periodically – but there was zero money for inspectors or enforcement. So it mostly didn't happen.

      Which was, of course, exactly what the industry wanted.

      This bill is a good start. What I would want to see? The social costs compensated. Those harmed getting medical bills and relocation costs paid. Property de-valuation paid for. Air and water cleaned up, or processes halted if the pollution can't be contained or remediated. Farmers compensated for loss of irrigation water

      That's not crazy talk – it's what should happen in a sane world. An industry should not be able to do deliberate harm to the environment, wildlife, people, without consequence. 

      Kids with brain and lung damage from exposure to methane at Bella Romero school, the research done, the medical bills paid, by the industry. Old and frail people who can't breathe, or get rashes or other symptoms, from exposure to fracking sites? Their relocation costs and medical bills compensated.


    • I don't care about failing initiatives, I'd like to see successful laws; it's looking like I might get that.

    • JohnInDenverJohnInDenver says:

      it may not satisfy … but a new initiative will be tougher, with more skepticism of "stalinist control" inherent in the failed approach of 112, more people aware of the changes in SB181 and willing to let it have a bit of time to operate to see what it actually does, and (best of all in my opinion) higher signature counts needed due to the blue wave of voters in 2018.

  4. VoyageurVoyageur says:

    181 is far from perfect.  But the legislative process proved its value compared to the furtive "six guys in a bar" app roach that earned 112 its "Stalinist" sobriquet.  Giving the public a voice — even those members that may, gasp, actually earn an honest living in one of our most productive industries — is always a good idea.

  5. PseudonymousPseudonymous says:

    Folks who like this bill will need to be ready to work hard next year, when the inevitable initiative comes forward from the O&G people to overturn the law.

  6. PodestaEmails says:

    Acting under cover of a blizzard to kill Colorado jobs. Congratulations!

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