Oil spill reporting legislation advances with bipartisan support

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Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, is the first and only Republican lawmaker to support a Democratic oil and gas proposal so far this year.

DENVER — For the first time all session, a Republican lawmaker has cast a vote in favor of a Democratic bill aimed at tightening regulations on Colorado’s oil and gas industry.

Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, voted in favor of House Bill 1278, which cleared the House Transportation and Energy Committee Wednesday afternoon on a 9-4 vote.

The legislation would force oil and gas companies to report any spill of one barrel or more to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and its local jurisidiction within 24 hours, a significant change from the current five barrel threshold.

The COGCC itself and the Colorado Petroleum Association also support the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Diane Mitsch Busch, D-Steamboat Springs.

On Monday, the House passed House Bill 1269, which would force representatives from the oil and gas industry who serve on the COGCC to disclose financial ties to the industry, on a near-party-line vote with all Republicans and two Democrats voting no.

On Thursday, the House may take up House Bill 1267, which would increase the COGCC fines that can be levied on oil and gas companies for spills and other environmental mishaps.

Currently, Colorado’s fines are the lowest in the country, with a maximum daily fine of $1,000 a day for oil and gas spills and a $10,000 cap on the total fine.

These debates come as state crews continue to find the cancer-causing chemical benzene in groundwater samples near a leaking natural gas pipeline in the western Colorado town of Parachute.

As FOX31 Denver reported Tuesday night, benzene levels were found to be 3600 times the state health limit within just a few feet of Parachute Creek, which flows into the Colorado River, which supplies drinking water for millions of people to the west of the Rockies.

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