Lawmakers propose sweeping reforms to Colorado oil and gas industry

DENVER -- On Thursday, state lawmakers proposed some of the most sweeping reforms to the oil and gas industry in Colorado history.

The proposed bill, which has not yet been released, would reform the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission and give local governments the ability to create greater setbacks.

“I said I would support health and safety and local control,” Governor Jared Polis said, commenting on how this legislation fulfills his campaign promises.

The bill aims to adjust the role of the COGCC by adding a commissioner with public health expertise, for example. It would also direct the COGCC to "create a certification process for oil and gas field workers."

According to the bill's supporters, its purpose is to protect the health and safety of Coloradans.

On Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis and other Democrats spoke alongside Erin Martinez in support of the bill. Martinez survived the Firestone explosion that killed her husband and brother in 2017.

“Nobody should have to expierence what my family has had to go through these past two years. I feel a direct responsibility to keep that from happening again,” Martinez said.

“Mark and Joey deserved better; we all deserve better,” Martinez said.

Colorado Rising, a group that worked on Proposition 112, said that it does not yet have a comment on the bill, as its language has not been released. However, its director of communications sent the following statement via email:

"We will maintain our position that we have no comment on this bill until we actually see the language. Oil and gas thrive on seemingly innocuous loophole that allows them to skirt the full effect of the law and regulations. We will be diligently reviewing the bill to ensure that it does afford the health, safety and welfare protections necessary for people and the environment," said Anne Lee Foster.

Proposition 112 would have increased setbacks and therefore limited where oil and gas companies could drill in Colorado. The proposition was soundly defeated in the November 2018 election.

On Thursday afternoon, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association released a statement. In it, its president and CEO said, in part:

"While we look forward to seeing legislation that lawmakers have described as common-sense reforms, their notion that oil and natural gas regulations haven’t been modernized and strengthened in 60 years is revisionist history. We have the strictest regulations in the country and they have been updated dozens and dozens of times with bipartisan support and the involvement of countless stakeholders. Ask Gov. Hickenlooper. Ask Gov. Ritter. Ask Gov. Romer. Rather than crafting their reforms in secret, they built a table big enough for all Coloradans to have a legitimate discussion," said Dan Haley.

Haley added that while COGA is "offended by this intentional mischaracterization of our industry," the association is committed to the upcoming legislative process because it is "committed to Colorado."

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