NEW 2019 legislation: SB19-181 “Protect Public Welfare – O&G Operations Bill”

WHAT IS SB19-181?

Read the full text here 

See the version history with amendments here

IN SUMMARY:

Summary from the Bill’s Sponsors

Local Control:   provides local governments with broad authority to regulate siting, inspect operations, impose fines, collect monitoring fees, regulate operations.  When there is a conflict between rules, the more protective rule wins.

Forced Pooling: increases the required threshold to 50% ownership/lease of the mineral interests before operators may drill against the will of others in the drilling unit

COGCC Reform:  changes COGCC’s mandate so that it must now “regulate” development & “protect” public health and safety instead of “fostering” oil & gas development. 

COGCC Members:  increases the number of members required to have experience in wildlife protection, environmental protection, soil conservation, agricultural expertise, public health experience – while decreasing the number of industry representatives from 3 to 1.  

Air Quality:  requires continuous emissions monitoring equipment (on which wells is being discussed).  Requires operators to minimize emissions from all steps of process.

Noise:  allows counties to regulate noise at well sites

Shared Regulation: clarifies that regulation of air quality, water quality, radioactive materials, hazardous waste, and land use is also under the jurisdiction of the respective state commissions (not exclusively COGCC).

New Rules Priority: COGCC can’t issue drilling permits until the rulemaking for this bill is complete, with some exceptions, plus 75 day backstop provision. 

Increased Assurances- raises assurance amounts required upfront, removes caps on fees, increases permit fees to be in line with actual costs

Environmental Response Fund:  increases the ceiling amount of this mitigation fund 

WHAT IS THE STATUS?

State senate bill SB-19-181 was introduced on March 1, 2019.

The first public hearing was on March 5 (Transportation and Energy Committee).  The bill passed this committee and was sent to the Finance Committee for another public hearing.  The bill passed the Finance Committee Hearing on March 7 and was sent to the Appropriations Committee.  The Appropriations Committee passed the bill to the floor of the Senate on March 8.   The Senate debated the bill on March 12 and passed the second reading with amendments.  The bill passed the Senate on third reading with no additional amendments on March 13.

Three House Committee Hearings will occur in the State House before a floor vote.  Those Committee Hearings are:  Energy & Environment, Finance, Appropriations.  The bill passed the House Energy and Environment Committee on 3/18 with no amendments.  The bill passed the House Finance Committee on 3/25 with no amendments.  The bill passed the House Appropriations Committee on 3/27 with no amendments. The bill was debated and passed the full House (second reading) on 3/28.  Several weakening amendments were added. The bill was passed in the full House (third reading) on 3/29.  On April 3, the bill was passed in the Senate with the House’s problematic amendments.  The bill was signed into law by governor Polis on April 16, 2019.

Now the COGCC will begin a rulemaking process to help translate the language of the bill into rules and begin implementation.  It is essential for activists and concerned citizens to remain enganged in this rulemaking process so that the COGCC and local governments know the will of the people.  Please attend meetings and support elected officials who are making tough decisions to protect Colorado.

 

CO Rising’s OPINION:

While Colorado Rising is currently taking a neutral stance on SB-19-181, this bill is a very important step towards empowering communities. If the legislature can pass it without watering it down or creating loopholes, the bill will help protect the health and safety of countless Coloradans.  It is vitally important to provide immediate relief to communities instead of stubbornly waiting for a 100% perfect bill.  We are encouraged that this bill will better preserve our land, air, water and reduce our contribution to climate change. Passage of this bill will also give Coloradans a better legal footing for future interactions with the oil and gas industry. 

CO Rising’s STATEMENTS:

Colorado Rising Director of Communications, Anne Lee Foster said: “Colorado Rising is taking a neutral position on SB19-181. While it would be immoral and unconscionable not to pass this bill, it does not go far enough to protect communities from dangerous oil and gas. This is the most powerful bill that we have seen come out of the legislature in ten years. This is a step in the right direction to balance the scales of power that have for far too long allowed the industry to run roughshod through Colorado communities. SB19-181 establishes that health and safety are the priority and grant local control to communities, something that any other industry would be required to fulfill. However, this bill leaves much work to be done in regards to enforcement, accountability and establishing definitive health and safety protections. Colorado Rising will be there to stand with communities.”

Colorado Rising Executive Director, Joe Salazar said: “It’s about time that Colorado holds this abusive industry accountable for the degradation of our environment and the harm it has caused to our communities.”

See Additional Statements from CO Rising on SB181’s weakening amendments here.

 

TAKE MORE ACTION

You can do more for Colorado and now is the time to get involved. We need volunteers of all abilities and skills. If you care about the health and safety of all Coloradans, please join us or donate what you can.

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