Oil and gas health-study bill receives House approval

DENVER – A bill proposing a study on possible health effects of oil and natural-gas development on the Front Range passed the Colorado House of Representatives in a 38-26 vote Thursday.

The bill goes to the Senate, where it will be assigned to a committee.

House Bill 1297, sponsored by Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, and Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, would examine data from Larimer, Weld, Boulder, Broomfield, Arapahoe and Adams counties. A similar measure last year was defeated. The study will cost almost $690,000, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

“I have heard from people across Colorado who are concerned about the potential effects that increased exploration and associated impacts may have on their families’ health,” Ginal said in a statement. “This analysis will help our state be better informed and make educated decisions as we move forward.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment would conduct the study, which would consist of mailed and online health surveys of people living in areas where oil is produced as well as a review of other health studies related to oil and gas.

The study will include a “scientific advisory committee” of nine voting members, together with the chief medical officer for the state health department, who will appoint the other members. The members cannot be lawmakers, and they should be from counties where the study will take place.

The committee will include 10 other nonvoting members, including representatives from the oil and gas industry and environmental community, statistician, economist and two doctors. Other members who must have expertise and a master’s or doctoral degree in public and environmental health, epidemiology, toxicology, behavioral and social science. The oil and gas industry representatives cannot work for an oil and gas operator.

The committee’s meetings will be open to the public. Due Jan. 1, 2017, the final report would be submitted for publication in a scientific journal.

Steve Lynn can be reached at 970-232-3147 or slynn@ncbr.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveLynnBW.

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