Three more oil & gas bills introduced

March 21, 2013

Colorado, oil and gas drilling

State Rep. Mike Foote, from left, speaks as State Sen. Matt Jones and State Rep. Jonathan Singer listen at a Longmont town hall meeting in January about oil & gas drilling. (Matthew Jonas - Denver Post)

State Rep. Mike Foote, from left, speaks as State Sen. Matt Jones and State Rep. Jonathan Singer listen at a Longmont town hall meeting in January about oil & gas drilling.  (Matthew Jonas – Denver Post)

Meanwhile in Denver a group of Democratic lawmakers – seemingly oblivious to the ongoing environmental disaster occurring in the gasfield north of Parachute – have introduced four new bills related to oil & gas drilling.

Oil and gas battles move to Colorado statehouse

Colorado lawmakers aim to tighten oil and gas regs

SB 13-202, filed last week by Sen. Matt Jones (D-Louisville), would add more state inspectors in order to inspect every oil and gas “location” in the state once a year. Currently there are 50,375 active wells across the state.

On Monday, three more bills were introduced.

HB 13-1268, sponsored by Rep. Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City) requires a seller of a property to disclose whether oil and gas rights have been transferred or leased.

HB 13-1267, introduced by Rep. Mike Foote, (D-Longmont), would increase maximum fines for violations, such as spills or safety issues. Unfortunately, if passed, this bill would not apply to the Parachute Creek spill because it has already occurred, only spills, etc going forward after passage of the legislation.

HB 13-1267:

  • Raises fines for oil and gas operators who violate COGCC rules
  • Protects our public health and environment and holds the oil and gas industry accountable by providing the COGCC with a more effective deterrent to carelessness and recklessness during oil and gas drilling operations.
  • Fines for oil and gas drilling violations in Colorado are currently among the lowest in the United States and have not been updated for two decades.  The current statute only allows for a maximum fine of $1000 per violation per day with a $10,000 cap unless the violation results in “significant” waste of oil and gas resources, damage to correlative rights, or adverse impact on public health.
  • Updates the fine schedule by paralleling CDPHE fines for air quality violations (a maximum of $15,000 per violation per day), eliminating the cap on fines, and establishing a mandatory minimum fine for significant impacts on public health.
  • The current fine structure penalizes operators who play by the rules by making the cost of noncompliance cheap. This legislation ensures penalties are strong enough to incentivize following the rules and cleaning up messes.
  • A common sense solution that protects our public health, welfare and safety in Colorado by ensuring the current environmental protections are enforceable.

Click here for a printable fact sheet of HB 1267

HB 13-1269, also sponsored by Rep. Mike Foote, (D-Longmont), would block individuals paid by the oil-and-gas industry from serving on the oil-and-gas commission, and it would remove the goal of fostering oil and gas development from the commission’s mandate so it focuses on public health and safety.

Why we need this measure:  The COGCC has a dual mandate to foster the development of oil & gas AND protect public health and welfare and the environment.  This dual-mission has resulted in a board that believes it must balance public health and welfare with industry health and welfare.  Current law also prohibits the COGCC from allowing resources to be left in the ground because those resources are “wasted.”  These two changes clarify that the COGCC’s mission is to protect public health, safety, welfare and the environment and clarify that protection of public health and welfare might mean that some areas are not able to be developed for oil & gas.

Coloradans expect that qualified, unbiased officials will be making the rules to protect public health and welfare and the environment.  As a quasi-judicial board, the COGCC must avoid the appearance of impropriety.  This bill will give the citizens of Colorado an agency they can trust to be fair and impartial.

This House Bill will change existing law by:

  • Removing the dual-mandate and clarifies that the mission of the COGCC is to protect public health, welfare and the environment including wildlife resources. Current law gives COGCC an often conflicting dual-mandate to both foster oil and gas development and to protect public health and welfare and the environment including wildlife resources.
  • Current law prohibits “waste.”   “Waste,” as defined in the statute, occurs whenever oil and gas is left in the ground rather than being extracted.  The bill clarifies that “waste” does not include reduced production that results from compliance with government regulation.
  • Current law also allows three people to serve on the COGCC who are employed by the oil & gas industry.  The bill would prohibit newly-appointed commissioners from being an employee of an oil & gas operator while serving in the commission, putting the focus of the commissioners on protecting our health, safety and natural resources.

Why this legislation is needed:

FACT:  3 of 9 oil & gas commissioners work for the industry they are supposed to be regulating.

FACT:  At the recent rulemaking hearing, multiple commissioners who work for the oil & gas industry stated that they felt that the meager 500-foot protective setback from homes, and the many loop-holes provided to industry, were a fair compromise since they had a “dual mandate” to both foster oil and gas development and protect the public and the environment.

FACT:  During the rulemakings in 2008, 2012, and 2013, the oil & gas industry threatened to sue the COGCC based on the fact that new regulations would conflict with the requirement that the agency not “waste” resources by leaving them in the ground.

FACT:  In 2012, the State Attorney General and Colorado Oil and Gas Association sued the City of Longmont for attempting to use its zoning authority to regulate the location of oil and gas facilities.  One of the bases for the lawsuit was that industry needed to be able to drill in residential areas because the state prohibits “waste” of the resource.

Click here for a printable fact sheet of HB 1269

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2 Comments on “Three more oil & gas bills introduced”

  1. richard schwabe Says:

    Their needs to be a bill to limit the dumping of production water down the “injection” wells, aka Valley Farms D-3 pad! Dump that crap far away from humans and waterways.

  2. Beth Says:

    Yeah, how about Antero using the pad behind the Strudley’s old frac’ed up house as an injection well? That’s gotta be good for the Silt Mesa aquifer.

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