Draft legislation in the Colorado House that may change the way oil and gas production is regulated will not include mandatory setbacks of the type rejected by Colorado voters in November when the Proposition 112 ballot initiative failed. That’s what House Speaker KC Becker told an audience of business leaders at a Colorado Chamber of Commerce legislative luncheon this week.
It’s not clear whether pending legislation in the Colorado Senate may include required setbacks. No oil and gas bills have been introduced in either chamber so far.
Becker and Senate President Pro Tem Lois Court said members in both chambers are working on oil and gas legislation, given the failure of Proposition 112 and the Colorado Supreme Court’s Martinez decision, both seen as wins for the energy industry and sources of frustration for foes.
Becker expects House legislation in two areas: empowering local governments to have a greater say in siting of drilling locations and mitigating temporary impacts like noise, odor and traffic; and elevating consideration of health and safety by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). Legislation requiring COGCC to consider health and safety in its regulatory role would address at least in part the concerns of the Martinez plaintiffs.
To applause from some in the audience, Court said it’s extremely important to recognize how many people in Colorado are employed by the energy industry. It’s also important, she said, to recognize how much work COGCC already has done to improve the regulatory regime, the strictest in the nation. COGCC has requested a budget increase to hire more inspectors, for example. The Senate Democratic caucus believes COGCC should be considering health and safety and also who serves on the commission, Court said. She added that she has not seen draft legislation redefining COGCC’s mission, which currently includes “fostering development of oil and gas” in Colorado, but she has heard about it.
Linhart PR has served many clients in the upstream and midstream segments of the oil and gas industry. Although we’re not legislative experts, we believe it’s very likely changes in Colorado’s regulatory regime will become law, including an increased emphasis on “local control” for city and county governments. Oil and gas companies should be planning now for how they will engage in genuine dialogue with citizens and local governments under tighter regulations, to ensure a balanced approach to addressing community concerns while continuing to produce the energy we all use every day.