As the Denver Post’s Judith Kohler reports, another major victory for majority Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly today as Senate Bill 19-181, legislation reforming regulation of the oil and gas industry, empowering local communities to control land use within their boundaries, as well as getting the state out of the business of “fostering” oil and gas development passes the House:
The House voted 36-28 for Senate Bill 19-181, which the Senate passed March 13. The Senate will now consider amendments added in the House’s Thursday night session.
The legislation would revamp the state’s oil and gas regulations by changing the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and putting public health and safety front and center when development is considered. It would also clarify that local governments have the authority under their planning and land-use powers to regulate oil and gas as they do other types of activities.
A press release from House Democrats following yesterday’s voice vote:
“This bill has been a long time coming and it attempts to address the concerns of many local communities about the increased quantity of oil and gas drilling happening in their communities and because they don’t have a say in it,” said Speaker KC Becker. “This bill ensures taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for cleaning up abandoned wells; it strengthens laws around forced pooling, mapping of flow lines and air quality; and finally reforms the COGCC.”
The landmark bill directs the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to regulate oil and gas development to protect public welfare, and clarifies that local governments have the same authority to regulate the oil and gas industry as they have with every other industry in Colorado – including the mining industry. The bill also removes the prohibition against local governments requiring oil and gas companies to cover the direct costs of regulating, monitoring and permitting the sites in their communities…
The bill addresses emissions and air quality by requiring increased monitoring and implementing a rule-making process to reduce emissions to better meet federal regulations. A “brown cloud” returned to Denver earlier this month and reports showed that the air quality was worse than that of Beijing.
From here, the bill goes back to the Senate for consideration of a considerable number of amendments passed by the House during their lengthy floor debate on the bill. Some of these amendments could be contentious between Democrats, as Westword’s Chase Woodruff explains in a freshly-updated story:
While some of the approved amendments were small technical fixes or clarifications requested by state agencies, several others include major, last-minute changes to the bill. Environmental and community activists had already been disappointed by amendments adopted amid pressure from industry groups just before its final passage in the Senate, and spent the last several days urging Becker to pass a “clean bill” without any further amendments. Still, with many of the bill’s key provisions intact, activists welcomed its passage by the House this morning. [Pols emphasis]
“Despite some concerning amendments, SB 181 is still a step in the right direction,” Anne Lee Foster, spokeswoman for anti-fracking group Colorado Rising, said in a statement. “There were some very obvious loopholes granted to industry.”
We’ll see how those amendments are resolved in the final negotiations between the House and Senate–where we expect Gov. Jared Polis’ office, for whom this bill is a top-tier priority, will help keep things on track. A final determination will help everyone understand the consequences for both sides–whether the bill is considered a sufficient solution to the problem to supporters, versus the political efficacy of compromises made to reduce the umbrage taken by the bill’s vexatious opponents.
Today is not the end of the fierce battle over one of the 2019 session’s biggest bills, but the end is now in sight.