Colorado legislature passes bill to hike fines for oil and gas spills

Photo: oil tanksA proposal to increase fines on Colorado oil and gas producers won final legislative approval Wednesday after a similar measure was defeated last year.

The measure increases the maximum penalty for a violation from $1,000 a day to up to $15,000 a day and the fine would last for as long as the violation lasts. Also, an operator could have a drilling license revoked or suspended in case of gross negligence or willful misconduct.

“I’m happy to see that we passed a bill this year that will help people deter having spills and that kind of thing, and that they clean them up right away," Senator Matt Jones (D-Louisville) says. "That’s the whole goal of this bill.”

Some Republicans like Senator Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins) argue that the industry is already regulated enough.

“The safety measures, and their technology, is far greater than it was 10 years ago," Sen. Marble says. "I do know their reclamation efforts are incredible and very effective.”

Last year, industry strongly opposed a similar bill. That one, however, included a minimum daily fine, a provision which is absent from this year's version.

This year, industry representatives testified in favor of the bill.

The current fine schedule hasn't been updated since 1955.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 20-15 and now goes to Gov. John Hickenlooper for final approval.