What you need to know right now about SB-181

Colorado House Speaker KC Becker, at podium, speaks during a rally in support of SB 19-181 on March 5, 2019, in Denver.  [Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post]

The final version of SB-181 passed out of the Senate on Wednesday. While we await Governor Polis’ signature, let’s take a closer look at what the bill will and won’t do — and what you need to know right now.

The first and most noticeable change will come from the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). Currently the commission contains 9 members, including 3 individuals who must have experience in the oil and gas industry, and one member with expertise in environmental or wildlife protection.

SB19-181: Protect Public Welfare Oil And Gas Operations REREVISED: Summary & text

“Section 8 of SB-181 reduces the number of industry members to one and requires one member with training or substantial experience in wildlife protection; one member with training or substantial experience in environmental protection; one member with training or substantial experience in technical expertise or soil conservation or reclamation; one member who is an active agricultural producer or a royalty owner; and one member with training or substantial experience in public health.”

Section 9 requires the director of the commission to hire up to 2 deputy directors. The directors of the Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment serve as non-voting members.

All members will be appointed by Governor Polis. Appointees must be employed exclusively as commissioners and cannot seek outside employment or connections with companies or organizations that advocate for or against oil & gas development.

Commissioner recommendations from the Front Range and the West Slope are currently being forwarded to the Governor’s staff. It’s refreshing to have a governor that doesn’t hide behind a wall of O&G industry executives but instead reaches out to the people for suggestions and recommendations.

Yesterday, the following message was sent to all Local Government Designees by Jeff Robbins, the director of the COGCC. All projects are currently on hold.

The April meeting is cancelled and business will resume sometime in May. Behold — change is coming soon!

Today the Senate passed SB 181. SB 181 will become law once the Governor signs the bill. Of the many groundbreaking provisions in SB 181, one in particular has an immediate impact on the Commission. Once SB 181 is signed by the Governor, which we expect will occur within the next week, the Commission itself will be reformed to have members representing the following perspectives:

1. Oil and gas industry expert

2. Local government official

3. Environmental protection expert

4. Wildlife protection expert

5. Technical expertise relevant to the issues considered by the Commission or soil conservation or reclamation expert

6. Actively engaged in agricultural production or a royalty owner

7. Public Health expert

8. Executive Director DNR – ex officio voting member

9. Executive Director CDPHE – ex officio voting member

This means that our current Commission make-up will require changes. To allow the Governor and his team time to conduct this evaluation, the April hearing is postponed until sometime in May. I appreciate that you will have many questions regarding what the next Commission hearing will look like, location, etc. When we have more information about the next hearing we will communicate those details to you. In the meantime, I appreciate your understanding as we work through these details.

Jeff Robbins

When SB-181 was first introduced, Robbins sent this announcement to COGCC staff to prepare for the passage of SB-181: Well Permitting Protocol Using Acting Director Robbins’ Signature

If you’re having trouble reading the text, here’s what it says:

Completed applications (Form 2 or Form 2A) meeting all COGCC requirements maybe approved using the Director’s signature except for wells or oil and gas locations (collectively, “locations”) meeting any one or more of the following criteria:

Locations with 1500’ of residence or high occupancy building
Locations within a municipality
Locations within 1500’ of Municipal boundary, platted subdivision, or County boundary
A UMA/LUMAF location
Locations within the school setback area
Locations within a flood plain
Locations within the 317B buffer area or the Brighton PWS buffer area
Locations within RSO or SWH for Greater Sage Grouse or Bald Eagle
Locations to be operated by Operator subject of increased bonding or protection
Locations proposed within exception zone location
Any Locations added by Director (EDO, GOV’s office)
Right to construct is Surface Bond (Operator Bond on)
Application has received comments from local government, state or federal agency, including wells with CDPHE consult
Application has received comments from environmental group or homeowners association or other group raising concerns
Application requires the Director to grant a Rule 5022.b Variance

Locations meeting any of the foregoing criteria are subject to additional review by Director.


Today Colorado Rising issued this statement:

“Please email COGCC Director, Jeff Robbins, and ask that he order all preparatory work be halted at sites that are not fully permitted at the state and local level, including the leasing of minerals, and sites that are currently under lawsuit. Let him know communities and environment deserve full due process under the new criteria established by SB-181.

“Despite sites like the Crestone CDP in Boulder County and several in Broomfield being under lawsuit and now being subject to further scrutiny by the COGCC, operators are forging ahead with site preparation like building roads and clearing designated Open Space and even drilling. The activity at these sites has already disturbed protected wildlife habitat and many are dangerously close to densely-populated neighborhoods. The industry should not be allowed to continue until they are fully permitted under 181 criteria at the state and local level, including the leasing of minerals, and lawsuits are complete. ”

Click here to email Jeff Robbins

More information

KDNK: Colorado’s SB-181 Passes, Gets Mixed Reviews

KUNC: Curious Colorado: More Of Your Senate Bill 181 Questions Answered

The Colorado Sun: The oil and gas bill is nearing final approval. Here’s a look at the concessions the industry won.

Daily Sentinel: Landmark drilling law shifts focus of priorities

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2 Comments on “What you need to know right now about SB-181”

  1. amyhaddenmarsh Says:

    Nice one, Peggy. AHM

  2. Les Kuhn Says:

    Thanks Peggy

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