Colorado lawmakers postpone another vote on oil and gas health study

Colorado lawmakers on the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee once again postponed a vote on a bill proposing a study on possible health effects of oil and natural-gas development on the Front Range.

House Bill 1297, introduced by Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, and Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, would examine data from Larimer, Weld, Boulder and Adams counties. The study would cost nearly $570,000 through fiscal 2017. A similar measure last year was defeated.

Committee members were scheduled to take action on the House Bill 1297 on Tuesday, but decided during the hearing to revisit the bill next week.

The committee did not have enough time Tuesday to review multiple, conflicting amendments to the bill from various committee members, said Committee Chair Beth McCann, D-Denver.

“There are 11 amendments,” she said. “We just don’t have the time to do this the way we need to before we vote on it.”

Ginal’s office expects a vote on the bill next Tuesday, an aide said.

Wendy Highby, founder of activist group Weld Air and Water, said this week’s delay made her nervous, but she hopes the debate over the bill will lead to bipartisan support. Highby testified in favor of the bill last week.

“Health should come first,” she said. “We talk a lot about how important (oil and gas) is for our economy, but your health is priceless.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment would conduct the study with involvement from a “scientific oversight committee” of nine voting members. Those members would include four others selected by Gov. John Hickenlooper, four members appointed by legislative leadership and also the chief medical officer for the state health department.

Due Jan. 1, 2017, the final report would be submitted for publication in a scientific journal.

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