House OKs higher fines for oil companies

A bill to increase maximum daily fines for oil and gas violations in Colorado heads to the Senate after passing the House by a vote of 40-22.

House Bill 1356, sponsored by Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, increases the maximum daily fine for a violation from $1,000 to $15,000.

The bill removes a cap of $10,000 for violations that do not result in a significant impact. The measure also specifies that companies will be penalized each day a violation occurs.

The bill gives the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission the authority to prohibit new drilling permits or revoke current ones if a company commits gross negligence or willful misconduct. The state oil commission also is to present penalty information to the Legislature annually and publish a quarterly report online.

“If a company is willfully breaking the law, they need to be held accountable,” Foote said in a statement.

The bill has support from industry trade group Colorado Oil & Gas Association, environmental group Conservation Colorado and the state Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the state oil commission.

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