Bill overhauling oil and gas regulations passes first hearing at Colorado State Capitol

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DENVER -- The bill that would overhaul Colorado's oil and gas regulations passed out of the Transportation and Energy Committee early Wednesday morning after nearly 12 hours of testimony at the capitol.

SB19-181 narrowly passed along party lines four to three after more than 400 people testified for and against the proposal during the hearing.

The bill would change the state's top priority from promoting oil and gas to protecting human health and safety and would give local governments authority over the location of new wells, a power now held by state regulators.

The far-reaching measure also would reorganize the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, reducing the number of industry representatives and adding commissioners with expertise in environmental protection and public health.

Tuesday's hearing before the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee was the first of several before the sweeping measure gets final votes in both chambers. Opponents of the bill — including oil and gas field workers — and supporters held separate rallies before the hearing.

Erin Martinez, who survived a 2017 house explosion blamed on a leaking natural gas line, spoke in support of one provision in the measure that would require the state to publicly post the location of pipelines.

The blast killed her husband, Mark Martinez, and brother Joseph Irwin and destroyed the Martinez's home in Firestone. Investigators said the gas came from a pipeline that was severed nearby.

"With proper inspection:  this entire tragedy could have been avoided," Erin Martinez said.

Tracee Bentley, executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council, told the committee that the measure goes too far.

"It all but guarantees the industry could not operate in certain jurisdictions," she said. It would send a message that "Colorado is closed for business."

The bill now moves on to the Senate Finance Committee.

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