Local control over oil and gas bill dies in the Colorado House

Two of three oil and gas related bills have been voted down. WCC legislative and oil and gas leaders react to the vote: 

On April 4,  the Colorado House of Representatives voted to kill House Bill 1355, a bill sponsored by Representative Mike Foote (D- Longmont) and Representative Sue Ryden (D- Aurora) to affirm the right of local governments to exercise land-use authority over oil and gas facilities.

“To say that Western Colorado Congress is deeply disappointed that HB1355 failed to make it out of the house is an understatement,” said Gretchen Nicholoff, chair of Western Colorado Congress’s legislative committee. “This was a common-sense bill that would have leveled the playing field and finally given oil and gas the same treatment as any other industry under local government authority.”

HB 1355 failed 33-32 after an attempt to amend the bill, with all Republican members as well two Democratic members, Representatives Paul Rosenthal (D-Denver) and Ed Vigil (D- Fort Garland), voting against.

The same fate that befell HB1355 also claimed Senate Bill 129 , which was killed in committee in March.  SB 129 would have clarified the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The proposed change was a recommendation from the Governor’s oil and gas task force last year to replace the word “foster” to “administer” in the authorizing legislation. This change was approved by over 60% of the task force, yet it was not adopted.

“It is clear that industry interests are blocking any forward progress on oil and gas issues at the legislature, which is the same as burying your head in the sand. The problems don’t go away just because certain people think they can ignore them,” concluded Nicholoff.

Leslie Robinson from the Grand Valley Citizens’ Alliance in Garfield County offered a hopeful view of the 2016 session. “Of course we are disappointed at today’s vote,” she said, “But impacted residents of Garfield County are heartened that we are even having this discussion at the legislature. After years of feeling ignored, the oil and gas bills we are seeing this year give us hope that we are finally being heard and that our concerns will be addressed.”

“More and more people are dealing with oil and gas development in their neighborhoods and are asking for the same commonsense fixes we in Garfield County have been working toward for decades.” Robinson continued.  “We all want solutions to the conflicts between oil and gas development and residents who have to live next to it.”

Robinson concluded, “One way or the other, the people of Colorado will resolve these conflicts, either through the legislature, the courts, or the ballot. We hope we can do this with our elected officials and look forward to working with them to face these issues head on and solve them.”

The last oil and gas bill working its way through the state legislature is HB 1310 sponsored by Representative Joseph Salazar (D-Thorton) which would give impacted homeowners the ability to seek compensation for damages from oil and gas induced earthquakes.

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