House approves increased fines for oil and gas drilling mishaps

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DENVER — A bill to dramatically increase state fines for oil and gas drilling fines for environmental mishaps took a big step forward on Monday.

The state House gave final approval to House BIll 1267, which will increase the fines from a maximum of $1,000 a day to a maximum of $15,000 a day — potentially, the first increase to Colorado drilling fines since 1955.

The bill also removes a maximum cap of $10,000 on drilling fines.

The proposal now heads to the Senate after a 35-27 vote in the House; one Democrat, Rep. Ed Vigil of San Luis, voted against the bill along with all the Republican members.

“This bill will help us hold irresponsible oil and has operators accountable,” said Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, the bill’s sponsor. “It will protect Colorado jobs. It will also protect public health and the state’s clean air and water.”

The fine bill is among a series of measures designed to crack down on energy producers in Colorado. The energy industry has not disputed that drilling fines are due for an update, though industry groups say the $15,000-a-day figure needs to be reviewed.

As the debate is taking place at the Capitol, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission continues to investigate an ongoing hydrocarbon leak 200 miles to the west in Parachute, Colo., where a high-concentrations of cancer-causing chemicals have been detected in groundwater within 10 feet of Parachute Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River.

Data pix.

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