DENVER – Following more than12 hours of testimony at the state capitol Tuesday night, the Colorado Senate Transportation and Energy Committee passed a bill to add new regulations to the oil and gas industry in Colorado.
Senate Bill 19-181 passed on a party line 4-3 vote, with all Democrats voting in favor. It will be considered in the Senate’s finance committee next.
The bill would allow local governments to have more control over oil and gas production. The bill would also require the state’s air quality control commission to install emissions monitoring equipment and to minimize methane, hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides emissions. It would also place a hold on drilling permits issued by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission until a proposal to drill is first approved by local governments or the director of the commission determines the permit does not need further analysis of health, safety and welfare impacts before approval.
In addition to those changes, the bill would change the makeup of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. Currently,the commission is made up of a total of nine members, with experience in the following areas:
- Three with substantial oil and gas experience
- Two executive directors of state government agencies
- One local government official
- One with substantial environmental wildlife protection experience
- One with substantial soil conservation or reclamation experience
- One engaged with agricultural production and a royalty owner
If signed into law, the number of commissioners from three to one and would require the director of the commission to hire two deputy directors.
When it comes to drilling permits, the legislation would put a hold on some of those plans until the rules become law.
Critics said the bill is being rushed through the legislative process, and they argue it would have numerous unintended consequences that could cost Coloradans jobs and tax revenue.
“This bill simply goes too far. There are far too many unintended consequences,” said Tracee Bentley, executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council. “The legislative process should start over with ample opportunity for input and review by all stakeholders, including industry, mineral owners, agriculture and local governments to avoid these unintended consequences.”
Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder), who’s sponsoring the legislation, issued a statement Wednesday morning.
“This bill is about one thing: creating a clear, modernized, and commonsense framework to allow the oil and gas industry to continue to do business in the state of Colorado, but not at the expense of people’s health and safety. I received a lot of input from Coloradans prior to the bill introduction and we’ll continue to work with anyone interested in improving this bill throughout the upcoming committee hearings.”
Fenberg said he believes the bill has been given enough time to receive input. He also told News5 the research and stakeholder process of the bill lasted months.
“I don’t think this will be on the Governor’s desk until a month, and I think that’s plenty of time to have a discussion out in the open,” Fenberg said on Monday.