By Jamie Leary

DENVER (CBS4) – Testimony didn’t wrap up until early Wednesday morning in Colorado for a bill which promises sweeping changes when it comes to safety regulations for the oil and gas industry. The bill passed the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee and now moves on to the Senate Finance Committee.

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“I just think it’s going to shut down permitting in the state of Colorado and if that happens, we can’t even calculate yet how much in lost tax revenues that would be and how that’s going to affect schools and how that’s going to affect our home values for people who aren’t even in the industry,” said Sarah McGowne.

McGowne, an accountant who has worked in the oil and gas industry for the last decade, was one of nearly 500 people who showed up at the capitol Tuesday to testify. While she wasn’t sure if she would be able to stay until midnight, she was determined to let people know how much she cares about what she does.

“The part of accounting that I mostly do is revenue accounting, so I take in the sales that our wells produce and I pay out royalties and I hear from royalty owners that are like, ‘Oh my gosh! Thank you so much! Now that I have this check, I can do x, y, z.’ You know, they count on that money. Those are real people that we’re paying. Those are real people that we’re paying and it’s making their lives better and I pay the tax bills — I send out money each month for severance taxes that goes to schools I mean it helps everybody.”

CBS4’s Jamie Leary interviews Sarah McGowne. (credit: CBS)

McGowne believes there is a lack of understanding from those not in the industry and says there are enough regulations as it is.

CBS4 spent Tuesday afternoon talking with families from Firestone where a fatal explosion two years ago was caused by a leaking flowline from a nearby well. A majority of people willing to talk spoke in favor of the bill.

“It might hurt in the short term but I think in the long run it will be better because they’ll be able to say, ‘Hey look these are the regulations we have to follow when we’re moving into your neighborhood,'” said Andrew Welker.

Welker says he has no concerns about another explosion but would like to see more considerations for safety before drilling.

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“I’m the kind of guy that’s the eternal optimist, so that might be part of it. So I’m inherently trusting of people and companies. Trusting that they had taken care of the issues that caused it in the first place and were working
to make sure that the neighborhood was safe.”

RELATED: Explosion Victim Erin Martinez Tells Committee ‘Tragedy Could Have Been Avoided’

The bill would change how the Colorado Oil And Gas Conservation Commission operates and demand that health and safety play the most important role when considering drilling permits. It also calls for more flowline data to be shared publicly.

Jamie Leary