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March 29, 2019 03:56 PM UTC

Landmark Drilling Protection Bill Nears Polis' Desk

  • by: Colorado Pols
Photo courtesy Gov. Jared Polis.

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.


15 thoughts on “Landmark Drilling Protection Bill Nears Polis’ Desk

  1. "major, last minute changes"…?

    Here is a big red flag…stop! Make sure the bill does not receive a final vote until all those are identified and fully explained.

    We have been burned that way before.

  2. I didn't find anthing that major, Duke. I think half of the House's textual changes amounted to ensuring that local governments could only effect changes within their jurisdictions. The composition of the Commission was altered (or re-worded) further, and there is now the ability to convene a technical advisory board to assist (either side?) in evaluations. Also, clarifications to tighten up the regulation of peripheral sites and operations were made.

    I think this is a massive step in the right direction from where we are. It's gone through rigorous review, hearings, and revision; no-one can truthfully say this was either one-sided or rushed. Everyone involved deserves a lot of credit for the work.

    1. Thanks for that insight, PR.

      I hope the current drivers of the bus recognize the true, bottomless, mendacity to be found at every turn when dealing with the industry. Now that it seems this legislation is about to become law, the industry will throw its full weight behind gumming up implementation until their Republican operatives can figure out something else.

      At this moment, oil and gas lobbyists, apologists, employees, and generally anyone who feeds at that table, are fanning out and talking up the resistance at the county and municipal level.

      For Gwen, Matt, Pete, Leslie, the Tres Miguelitos, and so many thousands of others who have given a piece of their life to the fight against the injustices of oil and gas extraction, a heartfelt thank you to those who persist and have sealed this victory…

      and a reminder…

      It ain't over. Remember the lesson of Gov. Frackenlooper. 

      1. That's right – it's never over.

        Did anyone else receive this text on Thursday, like I did: "Tell your legislators to vote no on the extremist effort to shut down CO oil + nat gas industry, costing 232,000 jobs + $7B for community." I replied to it saying, "not a chance." I guess they had a little problem narrowing their list to "persuadables."


      2. the industry will throw its full weight behind gumming up implementation until their Republican operatives can figure out something else.

        That trick is long in the tooth here in Colorado.  Reminded me of the post-Amendment 37 days (2004) when Xcel, Intermountain REA and Tri-State did everything possible to slow the implementation of the renewable mandate – all with howling cries about costing CO consumers billions of dollars and making our grid unreliable.  That mindset lasted all the way through the Ritter years, into Hickenlooper, culminating in the ridiculous War on Rural Colorado campaign (mostly funded by Tri-State – who is all but broke now because they clung to coal-fired power; on the other hand Xcel, who went all-in on renewables is printing money and delivering low-cost power to its consumers).

        1. They will attack Gov. Polis relentlessly. Luckily, Gov. Polis is indepedently wealthy, and his career, unlike that of Bill Ritters', cannot be threatened by the Lords of the Petroleum Club. They may very well fund the Nazi interests who want to recall him. I wouldn't be surprised.

          But, again, attaboys to the guv, the legislature, environmental community, and the Colorado communities that have been so stalwart in the defense of their homes and their loved ones.


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