Colo. lawmakers say they won’t fund a health study about oil and gas

Photo: oil tanksA study focused on the health effects of oil and gas drilling in six Front Range counties won't go forward. That's after lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday killed a bill that would have funded the effort.

The vote was 5-2, with a pair of Democrats voting along with Republicans.

One of those Democrats, Sen. Mary Hodge from Adams County, said the state health department could review health impacts of oil and gas, and the $630,000 study wasn't needed.

“We’ve just put in new oil and gas regs," Hodge says. "We’ve got the methane regs. We’ve got some of the toughest air quality regs. Let’s see what those do before we get all excited.”

Hodge says the bill didn't have enough votes to pass in the full Senate, where Democrats have a one-vote margin.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Joann Ginal (D-Fort Collins), says she's disappointed.

“It’s really a bill that would have helped our communities and possibly stopped bans and moratoria from occurring, and you may see more now, because they’re scared," Ginal says. "They feel that there’s something oil and gas wants to hide.”

Industry groups like the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and mineral-rights owners said the bill was biased against oil and gas drilling.

"The study's oversight committee, if staffed as proposed, begins with the appearance of being political and thus not neutral or credible," says Doug Flanders, COGA Director of Policy and Legal Affairs.

In an email, Flanders adds the state's health department is in the best position to examine potential health issues related to oil and gas.

"They have the expertise and the experience," Flanders writes.

Republicans have opposed the bill throughout the process.

"It makes an interesting political statement," said Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) during committee testimony earlier this month. "In terms of the scientific efficacy of such a study, it just does meet a reasonable standard."

Ginal says the point of the study was to simply gather credible scientific data. She says she planned to bring the bill back next year, as concerned constituents wanted "some information, that wasn't going to effect our economy, or jobs, or anything." She says those constituents wanted to know they're living in safe communities.

The legislation would have initiated a study about the health impacts of oil and gas development over a three-year period in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Weld and Larimer counties.

It had already passed in the House, along party lines.