Oil, gas bill introduced; industry asks lawmakers to pump the brakes

DENVER — A pair of Democratic state lawmakers introduced a bill Friday that could transform the way the oil and gas industry is regulated in Colorado and plan swiftly to begin committee hearings, prompting industry leaders to demand a slowdown in the process.

Senate Bill 181, put forth by House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder, and Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder, is scheduled to go before the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee Tuesday.

If passed and signed into law as currently written, the bill would enhance “local governments’ ability to protect public health, safety, and welfare and the environment by clarifying, reinforcing, and establishing their regulatory authority over the surface impacts of oil and gas development.”

Specifically, SB181 seeks to shift the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from a group tasked with fostering oil and gas development to a group focused on regulating the industry. The bill would also give local government more power to enforce land-use and zoning rules, as well as increased setback requirements. New limits on “forced pooling” would also be included.

“This bill was dropped without any input from industry or the communities directly impacted,” said Sandra Hagen Solin, founder of lobbying firm Capitol Solutions and issues manager of the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance. The alliance is the public policy advocacy arm of the chambers of commerce in Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland. “ … There is no transparency about this approach.”

In a joint statement issued Sunday, the leaders of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the Colorado Petroleum Council called upon lawmakers to pump the brakes on the process of moving SB181 forward to allow for more input from stakeholders.

“We are asking Senate President Leroy Garcia and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg to not rush this bill into committee on Tuesday and instead allow a diverse set of stakeholders more time to review the comprehensive and technical piece of legislation,” the statement from COGA president Dan Haley and CPC executive director Tracee Bentley said. “Senate Bill 181 would impact the livelihoods of Coloradans across the state, including many who live in rural areas and may not be able to make it to the Capitol to testify on such short notice. We’re asking that Senate President Garcia and others allow for a transparent stakeholder process that includes impacted Coloradans, including local governments, environmental interests, regulators, and industry.”

Supporters of the bill have noted that six public hearings on the bill are planned before any legislation would be presented to Gov. Jared Polis.

Still, “our elected leaders can’t be asked to vote on a bill this complicated and this encompassing – and one with such grave impacts – without first a legitimate dialogue,” Haley and Bentley’s statement said. “No good can come out of legislation that is revealed on a Friday night and rushed through the legislative process.”

After the introduction of SB181, Fenberg responded on Twitter to criticism about the lack of input from oil and gas industry groups: “News flash [industry groups and their leaders,] special interests don’t write bills, legislators do,” Fenberg tweeted. “I understand it might be difficult for the industry to no longer be able to write their own laws. But that’s not how things work in Colorado anymore.”

DENVER — A pair of Democratic state lawmakers introduced a bill Friday that could transform the way the oil and gas industry is regulated in Colorado and plan swiftly to begin committee hearings, prompting industry leaders to demand a slowdown in the process.

Senate Bill 181, put forth by House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder, and Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder, is scheduled to go before the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee Tuesday.

If passed and signed into law as currently written, the bill would enhance “local governments’ ability to protect public health, safety, and welfare and the environment by clarifying, reinforcing, and establishing their regulatory authority over the surface impacts of oil and gas development.”

Specifically, SB181 seeks to shift the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from a group tasked with fostering oil and gas development to a group focused on regulating the industry. The bill would also give local government more power to enforce land-use and zoning rules, as well as increased setback requirements. New limits on “forced pooling” would also be included.

“This bill was dropped without any input from industry or the communities directly impacted,” said Sandra Hagen Solin, founder of lobbying firm Capitol Solutions and issues manager of the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance. The alliance is the public policy advocacy arm of the chambers of commerce in Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland. “ … There is no transparency about this approach.”

In a joint statement issued Sunday,…