Controversial oil and gas bill forges ahead
From the day of its introduction to its first hearing, Senate Bill 181 has generated howls of outrage from the oil and gas industry and less than full-throated support, even from those you’d expect to favor it.
The measure, introduced on Feb. 28, got its first hearing March 5, in a 12-hour hearing that stretched into the wee hours of the morning on March 6, finally wrapping at 2 a.m.
Hundreds of opponents and supporters descended on the state Capitol on March 5 to battle over the bill, both inside the hearing and in rallies prior to its review by the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee. The committee approved the bill on a party-line 4-3 vote. It was heard by the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, which also approved it on a party-line vote.
Senate Bill 181 modifies the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Current law requires the commission to “foster the responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas” industry in a manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety and welfare, and the environment and wildlife resources. But over time, the bill’s sponsors claimed, the COGCC instead has imposed a balancing test between those two provisions, and opponents of the oil and gas industry have claimed that the COGCC is too industry-friendly.
Under Senate Bill 181, the words “foster the responsible development” is gone, instead replaced with “regulate.” That regulation must be done in a manner that protects public health, safety and welfare, the bill states, as did the bill’s Senate sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg of Boulder.
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