DENVER (CBS4)– State lawmakers call it the biggest change in oil and gas regulation in Colorado in more than 60 years. A Firestone woman who lost her husband and brother in an explosion caused by a leaking flow line is backing the legislation.
At a press conference with lawmakers, Erin Martinez spoke publicly for the first time since the tragedy that started a statewide conversation about the risks of oil and gas drilling in Colorado.
“I remember being blown into the air and trapped between falling debris,” said Martinez.
Marrtinez was inside her home with her son when the explosion happened.
“I understand that no one ever intended for this to happen. I have no desire to destroy an industry. However, with great tragedy should also come great change. Human life should come first.”
Gov. Jared Polis says the new legislation is aimed at doing just that, “The conflict between oil and gas drilling operations and the neighborhoods that are impacted simply can not be ignored any longer. The time to act is now.”
Polis and Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are behind the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg says it is not just window-dressing, “The proposal we have crafted is sweeping yet reasonable, effective yet flexible to meet the needs of each community.”
Speaker of the House KC Becker says it is also past due, “Coloradans deserve a government that works for them not special interests.”
They say the bill will change the makeup and mission of the state agency that regulates oil and gas, making health, safety and the environment it’s top consideration.
Sen. Mike Foote says will also give local governments control over everything from setbacks to air quality control to permitting, “Their zoning powers and land use powers are extensive when it comes to any other type of industry. They can accept, they can condition, they can deny permits for anything else and they can do the same thing for oil and gas.”
Martinez just wants some assurance that what happened to her won’t happen again. She moved to a new home and says an abandoned well was just located next door, “The only way to make sure this never happens again is to learn from this tragedy and create safer regulations and guidelines that put human safety first. Mark and Joey deserved better. We all deserve better.”
Lawmakers say public disclosure of pipeline and well locations will also be part of the bill. Fenberg says they sought input on the legislation from everyone impacted. But, Tracee Bentley, the executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council disputed that saying they have not been able to review the legislation and offer input.
“In my over 15 years of working with the Colorado state government, not having a thorough stakeholder process is unprecedented, especially for a bill that targets one industry but impacts every Coloradan. We are deeply disappointed that House and Senate leadership do not appear to value the stakeholder process nor the importance of having all stakeholders at the table on one of the most consequential proposals in Colorado history,” said Bentley.
Thirty business, labor and civic organizations sent a letter to the governor and legislature urging compromise and reminding them that the industry is a big employer and economic driver. No word on when the bill will be introduced.