DENVER (CBS4) – The Colorado State Senate is poised to pass a major overhaul of oil and gas regulations in Colorado. Republicans and the industry claim the bill is a de facto ban on oil and gas.
The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Steve Fenberg of Boulder, fired back on the Senate floor, saying that is not what the industry tells him behind closed doors.
“The industry themselves have sat down in my office and said, ‘We know this is not a moratorium,’ but the TV ads they’re running, the talking points they send you, say this is a moratorium.”
Fenberg lashed out at a TV ad by industry supporters that claims his bill will shut down energy production.
“If our intention with this bill was to destroy the oil and gas industry, I could have written that bill in less than a page… I think it is in everyone’s interest to create certainty and that’s what every single line on these 30 or so pages attempts to do.”
Sen. John Cooke of Weld County — where 80 percent of the state’s drilling happens — says don’t believe it.
“Just because somebody says something over and over and over again doesn’t make it true.”
Cooke says the bill is not about local control, but state control concentrated in one person. Under the bill, the governor’s director of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission could delay as many permits as he wants as long as he wants, even if Weld County, for example, is okay with the permits.
Fenberg said, “I am open to clarifying that piece of the bill.”
He says the discretion is aimed only at pending permits that pose a health and safety risk. Local governments that want to, he says, will have the authority to decide most permits.
“The bill is, in my opinion, pretty clear that any regulation has to be rational, has to be reasonable, has to be for the purposes of minimizing negative impacts.”
But Cooke says it’s a “legislatively induced recession” that will hit his district hardest.
“Weld County will be devastated make no mistake about it.”
The State Capitol is so tense, republicans got a restraining order against Senate President Leroy Garcia and the Secretary of the Senate, who used computers to read a 2,023 page bill — so no one could understand it — on the floor.
Republicans demanded the reading. They say democrats are rushing controversial bills like oil and gas through the legislature.
Garcia responded to the legal action in a statement saying:
“Senate Republicans have decided to employ unprecedented partisan tactics, abuse taxpayer dollars, and waste time that could be spent working for the people of Colorado. This political gamesmanship is more fitting of Washington, D.C. than Colorado. We are better than this.”
Oil and gas bill passed the Senate 19-15 on a party line vote Wednesday with one Republican Senator absent.
It was amended to include the following:
-Requires that local government regulations be “necessary and reasonable” for the purpose of protecting health and safety.
-Requires that regulations by the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission be “necessary and reasonable” to carry out its mission of protecting health and safety.
-Limits the length of time the Director of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission can hold up permits. Requires the Director to lay out the criteria that will be used in delaying a permit in the next 30 days and take public comment on the criteria.
Requires a decision on questionable permits as soon as health and safety rules are passed.
Creates a technical review panel at the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission that can
– at the request of an operator or local government – provide input on technical best practices.
Clarifies that local government protections can go farther than the state’s but that one local government’s regulations don’t apply to another local government.