Gov. Polis signs bill overhauling oil, gas rules

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DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill overhauling oil and gas regulations into law on Tuesday, shifting the focus from encouraging production to protecting public safety and the environment.

Supporters say it brings much-needed protection to Colorado’s booming population and the environment.

“It means a lot,” Erin Martinez said. “It’s something that will mean something to these guys someday, hopefully.”

Martinez survived a deadly 2017 gas explosion that took the lives of her husband and brother in Firestone.

“I think the best way to honor my husband and my brother is to make sure something positive comes from such a horrific death,” Martinez said.

Senate Bill 181 changes a few things for energy production in Colorado. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will now have full-time members who are charged with regulating the industry. Instead of the state stepping in, local governments now have the power to create oil and gas rules, including greater setbacks.

Opponents say the law will stifle a major industry and kill jobs.

The Coloardo Oil and Gas Association said:

“SB 181 is the most comprehensive oil and natural gas legislation Colorado has seen in decades. While we appreciated and supported a few critical amendments that were added to address some of our concerns and that provide a degree of certainty for our member companies, we still oppose the legislation.”

Colorado Rising, a group known to be in favor of oil and gas reform, sent the following statement:

“While SB-181 does not address all of the concerns and threats associated with industrial fracking activity, it is a desperately needed tipping back of enormously unbalanced scales in favor of people and environment. SB-181 is the most substantial shift we have seen in decades and puts communities on much better footing when confronted with industrial oil and gas in their backyards.”

Oil and gas drilling is contentious in Colorado, which ranks fifth nationally in crude oil production and sixth in natural gas.

The industry says it contributes $32 billion annually to the state economy and supports 89,000 jobs.

But fast-growing Colorado communities are spilling into oil and gas areas, sparking complaints about noise, pollution and safety.

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