February 7, 2012

(Denver) – A pair of bills sponsored by House Democrats to give Coloradans more protection from  oil and gas drilling near their homes died today in the House Local Government Committee.

Rep. Su Ryden’s bill, HB12-1176, would have set a 1,000-foot minimum statewide setback for drilling operations near schools or residential areas. The current standard, 350 feet, has come under criticism with the recent surge in drilling activity along the Front Range, the most heavily populated part of the state.

Rep. Ryden (D-Aurora) said the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission had promised for years to introduce a higher standard that codifies best practices already observed by most of the oil and gas industry.

“With thousands of Coloradans’ health, safety and property values at stake, I believe we need to act now,” she said.

Rep. Wilson’s HB12-1173 would have directed drillers to store drilling fluids in tanks. Many drillers store drilling and hydraulic fracturing fluids in open pits, where the volatile compounds they contain can evaporate, leak or be washed out in a flood.

Rep. Wilson (D-Glenwood Springs) described open pits as “an accident waiting to happen,” with potentially catastrophic results for the environment and the energy industry. “I fear such an accident — spilling fluids out of a pit into the Colorado River or into other tributaries — would be a serious blow to the industry in the state of Colorado,” he said.

The House Local Government Committee voted 8-3 against Rep. Ryden’s bill and 7-3 against Rep. Wilson’s bill.

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