Colorado Senate passes oil and gas bill during blizzard
On a day the Colorado Governor’s Office and the Colorado House of Representatives were closed — not to mention schools and businesses across the state — the Colorado Senate was in session, passing Wednesday morning a bill that makes sweeping changes to oil and gas regulations.
The vote, which followed three committee hearings in the Senate, came at 10 a.m., and went along party lines, with Democrats voting “yes” and Republicans voting “no.” The final tally was 19-15.
Local Sens. John Cooke, R-Greeley; Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins; and Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, all voted against the bill.
It now moves on to the Colorado House, where it will again be assigned to three separate committees.
Despite numerous amendments, including a couple that appear to offer compromise to the industry and Republicans, the bill’s passage still rankled those groups.
“It’s unfortunate, because it’s still going to have a devastating effect on not just Weld County, but the entire state — on downtown Denver,” Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, said in a phone interview between committee meetings Wednesday.
Industry officials had a similar take, with the Colorado Petroleum Council and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association issuing a joint statement thanking Republicans for voting against the bill.
“This much we do know: Senate Bill 181 still attempts to cripple the industry’s ability to continue operations in Colorado,” according to the joint statement. “If signed into law, this legislation will diminish funding for critical public services, including education, health care and road maintenance.”
The vote came amid a blizzard across the Front Range, and in spite of the fact that the Colorado House was closed for the day.
Senate President, Democrat Leroy Garcia, has drawn his share of ire for the decision, which comes on the heels of a Republicans’ attempts to slow down the process by having a 2,000-page bill read aloud.
“The (Senate) president is putting people at risk by making everybody stay there,” said Cooke, who asked for the 2,000-page bill to be read.
Environmental groups cheered the bill’s passage, which came with a variety of amendments.
One of the amendments establishes a procedure for reviewing sites oil and gas development outside of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and local governments. A separate group would review the case, then provide a non-binding recommendation.
Another changes language related to oil and gas development within counties but outside of municipal boundaries, potentially making oil and gas development easier in those locations.
Conservation Colorado Executive Director Kelly Nordini, in a statement sent Wednesday morning, thanked the Colorado Senate for passing the bill.
“Thank you to the Colorado State Senate for acting decisively to prioritize Colorado’s air, water and residents over oil and gas industry profits,” Nordini’s statement read in part. “We urge the House to act swiftly, pass these common-sense reforms and send them to Governor Polis to sign so we can put Coloradans’ health and safety first.”
While policymakers are celebrating a big drop in Colorado’s individual health insurance prices for 2020, they’re also scrambling to combat the sharp decline in the number of carriers in rural parts of the state where 22 of 64 counties have just one option on the Obamacare marketplace.