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Democrat-led Senate in Colorado OKs overhaul of oil and gas regulations; Bill would give local governments power

By Rich Peters | Mar 19, 2019

DENVER (Legal Newsline) - Democrats in the Colorado Senate recently approved a partisan bill that would reform regulations regarding gas and oil industry operations in the state.

Despite the acts of Republican lawmakers, SB19-181, which allows local governments to regulate drilling in their communities, passed in the Senate March 12, a Denver Post article said.

The bill, titled “Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations,” states, “The bill enhances local governments’ ability to protect public health, safety, and welfare and the environment by clarifying, reinforcing, and establishing their regulatory authority over the surface impacts of oil and gas development.”

The bill has moved to the House Finance Committee.

Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D-Thornton) said: “As a lifelong Coloradan, and proud resident of Adams County since childhood, I cannot remain silent during one of the most crucial debates we have had in decades.”

The bill is also sponsored by Speaker K.C. Becker and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg. They feel the bill protects families from residential drilling. 

But the potential change in regulations has also raised questions around the state and country regarding the negative impacts that the region may face.

Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA), and Tracee Bentley, executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council (CPC), released a joint statement. They say the process by which the bill is going through the Legislature needs to be slowed.

A more diverse set of stakeholders needs time to review the bill, they say.

"We’re asking that Senate President Garcia and others allow for a transparent stakeholder process that includes impacted Coloradans, including local governments, environmental interests, regulators, and industry," they said.

"Our elected leaders can’t be asked to vote on a bill this complicated and this encompassing – and one with such grave impacts – without first a legitimate dialogue. No good can come out of legislation that is revealed on a Friday night and rushed through the legislative process.”

Sen. John Cooke (R-Greeley) also rallied against the bill, calling the legislation “economic racism,” and a number of other state and county officials have testified along those same lines, saying it would hurt the most important industry in the state.

Following the passing of SB19-181, Cooke requested that a 2,000-page bill be read in its entirety on the Senate floor in attempt to delay the bill.

Parts of Colorado have been active in fighting against big oil companies, having already sued ExxonMobil and Suncor for their alleged hand in local climate change.

The 2018 lawsuit in which Boulder city and county and San Miguel County read, “fossil fuel combustion was causing a dramatic rise in the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere,” which in turn causes “significant temperature changes” and “dramatic climatic changes.”

The lawsuit is similar to several others around the country, but the only three to make it to a point in which a judge decided on the defendants' motion to dismiss have, in fact, been dismissed.

It is not the job of the judiciary to impose greenhouse gases policy, judges feel. The Department of Justice has echoed that sentiment, urging dismissal of these cases.

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