Energy, cancer bills signed on West Slope |

Energy, cancer bills signed on West Slope

Donna Gray
Vail, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndepedentGov. Bill Ritter was in Glenwood Springs to sign three bills related to the gas industry in western Colorado. Colorado senators Josh Penry, left, and Gail Schwartz also took part in the public bill signing.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Gov. Bill Ritter paid a visit to Glenwood Springs Tuesday to sign four bills, three of which provide more oversight for the oil and gas industry in western Colorado.

Earlier in the day, Ritter stopped in Frisco to sign three other bills. One, House Bill 1298, expands the policy of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to focus on public health, environment and wildlife impacts.

Later in the day he also visited Grand Junction to sign, among other bills, HB 1341, which expands the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from seven to nine members to bring a better balance of interests to the membership, which currently comprises primarily representatives of the energy industry.

Ritter said he wanted to sign the oil and gas bills on the West Slope because that is where the effects of the industry are being felt and where he heard from the public about the need for reform.

“I heard as much about oil and gas issues in Garfield County” as he did anywhere else during his campaign for governor, he said.

In Glenwood Springs, Ritter signed into law HB 1139, which doubles the percentage of severance tax revenues that come directly to the communities affected by energy extraction. Currently, communities get 15 percent of the revenues and the state Department of Local Affairs 85 percent, which it awards to impacted communities in the form of energy impact grants.

“We know it’s not meeting all the impacts but it will direct a higher proportion to the energy extraction communities,” said state Rep. Kathleen Curry (D-Gunnison) who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Josh Penry (R-Fruita).

Ritter also signed HB 1252, which requires oil and gas developers to minimize surface impacts and makes them liable for damage. Ritter applauded the efforts by members of both parties to pass the legislation.

“This was truly a bipartisan effort to put this together,” he said.

The bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) and Sen. Jim Isgar (D-Hesperus). “This is not about stopping development (but is about) the need for compromise,” Roberts said.

Ritter also signed HB 1180, which requires the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to establish rules by Jan. 1, 2008, to ensure the accuracy of gas volume measurement at the wellhead. The bill will also open county assessor records on oil and gas property taxes to the state Department of Revenue.

“We were the only state that did not have a process to verify (natural gas) volumes,” Isgar said.

Ritter also signed Senate Bill 91, which calls for the state to create a map showing all electrical transmission lines across the state to determine which areas can support renewable energy projects.

At St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Ritter signed several bills, one of them HB1301, the cervical cancer immunization bill. The bill directs the state health department to increase public awareness about immunizations and the benefits of being immunized against it.

Mary Fenton, a mental health professional and employee of St. Mary’s Hospital, found out she had pre-cancerous cells in her cervix when she was 32 and had a hysterectomy. At the time, a vaccination was not available.

“I’m thrilled the opportunity is available now. It wasn’t at that time,” Fenton said.

About 40 Coloradoans die annually of cervical cancer.

Ritter also signed HB1346. It allows the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to seek federal approval to enter into prepaid inpatient health plan agreements to revitalize Medicaid managed care.

Grand Junction Free Press reporter Marija B. Vader contributed to this report.

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