Colorado’s Senate Finance committee voted on 4-3 on March 7 to move Senate Bill 19-181 to the Appropriations Committee, which will hold its hearing on March 8. The vote, as with the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee the day before, was along party lines.
SB 19-181 continued its breakneck pace through the General Assembly, beginning only two business days after it was introduced by Majority Leader Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) and co-sponsored in the House by Speaker KC Becker (D-Boulder).
While the bill is expected to pass each of the five committees, criticism on the bill began to emerge. In an op-ed piece for The Denver Post, former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) and former Secretary of the Department of the Interior under President Barack Obama called SB 19-181 “too extreme” as written.
“Senate Bill 181 concerning oil and gas operations is too extreme for Colorado and harmful to Colorado’s workers, schools and businesses. The bill should be opposed as introduced,” Salazar wrote.
Meanwhile, Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer told the Post, “We believe this in effect is a moratorium.”
The Post quoted her as saying “at a minimum, the new regulations would severely reduce oil and gas activity in Weld County, which leads the state in the number of producing wells. She lamented the loss of millions of dollars in tax revenue for schools and other government services.”
It’s a sentiment Salazar shared. “Colorado has played a key role in securing that energy independence for our nation. Colorado is a leader of renewable energy. Colorado is also a center of oil and gas. The oil and gas industry in Colorado creates over one hundred thousand jobs for hard-working Coloradans, provides over one billion dollars to fund our schools and roads, and is responsible for 11 percent of the state’s gross domestic product,” he wrote.
“Now, SB 181 will wrongly bring our Colorado energy success story to an end.”
Dan Haley, president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association testified during Thursday’s Finance committee hearing on the impact the loss of oil and gas revenue could have for the state. “As a dad of two children in public schools, I am closely acquainted with Colorado’s school finance battles. I’m proud to share with you today that Colorado oil and natural gas development generates an average of $669 million per year in K-12 and higher education funding.”
Senator Dennis Hisley (R-Fountain), who serves on Appropriation in the General Assembly, tweeted, “Looking forward to listening to testimony related to #SB181. I urge my fellow committee members (and the drafters) to listen to concerns from across our state and consider the impact of regulatory overreach on our communities and responsible energy development. #coleg #copolitics.”
During Tuesday’s 12-hour marathon Transportation and Energy Committee hearing nearly 200 people testified. Among them, a 14-year-old boy who asked lawmakers to think of the oil and gas funding that goes to his high school and the jobs of his parents who both work as safety professionals in the energy industry.
During Tuesday’s testimony, Haley tweeted, “County after county after county that produces oil and gas testifying that they were not consulted in the drafting of #SB181. All 6 remote testimony locations filled with folks who weren’t given time to make it to Denver. #coleg #oilandgas”
Sen. Fenberg tweeted yesterday “Total testimony count: 86 against and 101 in support of our effort to prioritize public health and safety.”
Prior to the first hearing, nearly 1,000 oil and gas industry workers rallied outside of the state Capitol. COGA said that nearly 400 of them signed up to give testimony despite the uncharacteristically short notice for the hearing.
“We cannot let one county dictate how we live our lives in Colorado,” Haley told the crowd.
Colorado Petroleum Council, executive director Tracee Bentley told the crowd to “Be proud of who you are and what you do. I am energy proud.”
The introduction came after Colorado voters rejected Propostion 112 in November, which would have increased setbacks to 2,500 ft from the current 500 ft around homes and 1,000 ft around schools. The new bill does not include language increasing on setbacks, but Fenberg told reporters that local governments could impose setback rules under the measure. Haley and Bentley decried the rush to push the bill through committee just two working days after it was introduced.
Groups want the organization to align its June report with Paris accord goal.
If the increase is a one-off, it won’t affect a market that is quickly rebalancing.
Details of the proposal were not available. A spokesman for ONRR said the agency “does not comment on draft rules prior to their publication.”