(Apr. 16) – Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill that will update Colorado’s antiquated oil and gas laws to protect families and individuals from residential drilling by putting health and safety first, empowering local communities, and protecting our clean air and clean water.
“Today, our state took a big step forward toward ensuring local governments have a seat at the table with the oil and gas industry and state government when new wells are to be drilled in that community. This law will give communities concerned about the health and safety impacts of oil and gas greater assurance that air quality and other impacts don’t take a back seat to other concerns,” said Speaker KC Becker. “This bill was years in the making, and for far too many, it’s long overdue. I’m proud of what we have accomplished with this new law.”
“As we discussed flow lines, well sites and profits, it was easy for some to lose sight of a major aspects of this new law and that’s the refocusing of the COGCC to put health and safety first,” said Rep. Yadira Caraveo, the legislature’s only doctor and the co-prime sponsor of the bill. “We shouldn’t prioritize well sites over of the health of wheezing infants. This bill gives local governments a voice when it comes to residential drilling.”
The landmark law directs the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to regulate oil and gas development to protect public welfare, and clarifies that local governments have the same authority to regulate the oil and gas industry as they have with every other industry in Colorado, including the mining industry. The law also removes the prohibition against local governments requiring oil and gas companies to cover the direct costs of regulating, monitoring and permitting the sites in their communities.
“I want to thank Erin Martinez for lending her powerful voice to this fight. My colleagues and I share her belief that industry can put health and safety first and continue to thrive at the same time,” Speaker Becker added. “Like many Coloradans, we admire Erin Martinez’s strength, commitment, and courage to enact change in the wake of terrible tragedy.”
The new law addresses emissions and air quality by requiring increased monitoring and implementing a rule-making process to reduce emissions to better meet federal regulations. A “brown cloud” returned to Denver last month and reports showed that the air quality was worse than that of Beijing.
SB19-181 would also ensure that taxpayers are not footing the bill for cleaning up orphan oil and gas wells that have been abandoned but not adequately plugged. Current bonding requirements are inadequate to cover the cost of clean-up when a company abandons a well. Cleanup costs for just one abandoned well costs an average of $82,000. Currently, there are nearly 400 known orphan wells in Colorado and a long list of wells that should be investigated.
Finally, SB19-181 also provides increased protections for property owners with regard to forced pooling. Under current law, just one mineral rights owner can start the process of “forced pooling” other mineral owners and require development of those resources against the will of the majority of the owners. This bill would raise the threshold and put more transparency and guardrails on the process.
The sponsors and proponents of the bill made clear during each hearing and floor debate that this bill is not a reiteration of Proposition 112, nor is it a moratorium or a ban on drilling.
Watch the bill signing here.