As oil and gas bill heads to governor’s desk, energy industry pleased with late amendment

DENVER -- The most sweeping change to oil and gas laws in Colorado is off to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis, who is expected to sign the legislation.

SB 181 cleared the State Senate Wednesday. It had already passed the House.

The final party-line vote was 19-16 with every Democrat in favor and every Republican opposed.

WHAT SB 181 DOES

The bill drastically reforms the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. SB 181 makes members full-time and instead of "fostering" relations with the industry, they are charged with "regulating" the industry.

Additionally, local governments are given new power to enact new oil and gas rules, including greater setbacks.

An analysis by FOX31 shows Adams County, Broomfield County and Boulder County are likely areas where changes will take place first.

LAST-MINUTE AMENDMENT 

While the energy industry remains firmly opposed to SB 181, representatives tell FOX31 they are pleased with several amendments added to the bill in the past few days.

One amendment requires any new rule change be "reasonable and necessary."

"We feel like that adds a degree of certainty for our industry," said Dan Haley, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Others feel as though the amendment allows for lawsuits as soon as the industry finds a new rule "unreasonable."

"I think there are some concerning amendments that open up local governments and even the state to litigation," said Anne Lee Foster, a spokeswoman with Colorado Rising, an organization that helped lead the fight for Proposition 112, which voters turned down in November.

NEXT STEPS  

Gov. Polis is expected to sign the bill in the next 30 days, but the big questions remain. For instance:

  • How does a new Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission act?
  • What rules does it pass?
  • Which local governments will attempt to enact new oil and gas rules?

"This is not the end but the beginning," Haley said.

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