Oil And Gas Overhaul On Its Way To Polis’ Desk

<p>Hart Van Denburg/CPR News</p>
<p>Oil storage tanks near Colorado Boulevard in Firestone, with the Pelican Shores development in the background, on April 2, 2019.</p>
Photo: Weld County Oil And Gas Near Homes 1 HV
Oil storage tanks near Colorado Boulevard in Firestone, with the Pelican Shores development in the background, on April 2, 2019.

Sweeping oil and gas overhaul legislation SB 19-181 is heading to Gov. Jared Polis. The new rules would give local governments more tools to regulate where wells go. It would also make health and safety a top priority for state regulators.

The bill does include more than a half dozen amendments, some of which were requested by the state’s oil and gas industry in the final days before the legislature passed it.

Democratic sponsor Steve Fenberg of Boulder said it’s “in the best interest of the communities impacted by oil and gas extraction as well as the communities that have industry that supports their economies to accept these amendments,” and at the same time move forward with health and safety protections.

Opposition from Republicans and industry groups has been fierce. The Colorado Petroleum Council voiced their support for the amendments but remains opposed to the bill. Some opponents, like Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, have filed statewide ballot issue paperwork in an effort to repeal the new oil and gas regulations.

One adopted amendment request by the industry includes changes to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Currently, the state regulator is a volunteer or part-time job. The industry wants the role professionalized and it will become a full-time position under the COGCC.

Another industry-requested amendment specifies that efforts to protect both health and environment at the state and local level must be to “the extent necessary and reasonable.” That was a disappointment for the environmental group Colorado Rising, which labeled the amendment as a “loophole.” In the last election, Colorado Rising advocated for the failed Proposition 112 ballot measure that sought a 2,500-foot setback between energy development and homes and schools.

Most environmental groups, however, praised the passage of the oil and gas reform bill.

A final signature by the governor on SB 19-181 will be the first of many steps to completely implement the bill. It’s expected to launch a half dozen rulemakings on such matters as flowline regulations and methane controls. Those efforts will take months, even years, for the state to fully adopt.

In the immediate near term, the director of the COGCC announced that scheduled hearings on the Crestone Development Plan in Boulder County would be postponed in light of the new bill. The hearings would be rescheduled once the changes made by the new law are understood and implemented.