Three bills regulating oil and gas development introduced at Capitol

Posted on: 6:44 pm, March 18, 2013, by , updated on: 09:10am, March 19, 2013

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DENVER — From one fight to another.

With the most controversial gun control bills set to be signed into law on Wednesday, attention is shifting to other contentious issues that will likely dominate the second half of the legislative session — the death penalty, education funding, Medicaid, the state budget and fracking.

With little fanfare on a day dominated by other high-profile debates, three new measures calling for additional regulation of the oil and gas industry were officially introduced Monday, measures that are may fray the Democratic coalition at the Capitol that has held together for the most part through two months of intense pressure on guns and other issues.

House Bill 1267, sponsored by Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, will increase a current cap on fines that can be imposed by the state on oil and gas companies for spills and other accidents that can negatively impact public health.

House Bill 1268, sponsored by Rep. Dominic Moreno, D-Commerce City, would force realtors or home sellers to disclose to the prospective buyer that the property sits on land where someone else owns the mineral rights.

House Bill 1269, also sponsored by Foote, aims to address the conflicting mandates of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, tasked with protecting the environment and enabling excavation, by changing the law so that the Commission’s mission focuses only on making sure that drilling and exploration is taking place in an environmentally responsible way.

“The state of Colorado should put the health of Coloradans and our clean air and water first, not the profits of multimillion dollar oil and gas companies,” said Conservation Colorado’s Pete Maysmith. “Furthermore, common-sense dictates that those charged with making rules should not be on the payroll of the same industry they are supposed to regulate.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former geologist whose pro-fracking positions and statements have riled environmentalists, is unlikely to support H.B. 1269 and may oppose all three bills introduced Monday.

Hickenlooper has already threatened to sue every municipality that votes to ban fracking within its limits; Longmont is now facing two state lawsuits, and additional litigation is expected against Fort Collins, where lawmakers voted to ban fracking earlier this month.

Additional anti-fracking legislation is expected to be introduced in the next week or two.