SB19-181, dubbed “Protect public welfare – oil and gas operations,” is a dangerous piece of legislation that poses an existential threat to the oil and gas industry in Colorado. It is safe to assume that a bill of this importance was pre-cleared with Governor Polis for signature if passed, and will enjoy the support of a unified Democrat party in both houses of the legislature.
SB 181 was introduced on Friday night after most lawmakers went home for the day, and is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee this Tuesday. For those of you wondering, yes, that is a fast turnaround presumably designed to limit the public’s ability to muster opposition in committee as this bill is considered.
The bill is designed to fundamentally transfer regulatory oversight from the Colorado Oil and gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to a patchwork of local jurisdictions with massively different values, motivations, and goals. The bill accomplishes this through a number of avenues, such as local control, the composition of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission membership, and forced pooling, among other things. It is all done under the guise of protecting public safety and promoting environmental stewardship (which it does very little of).
In short, this is a back-door attempt to ban oil and gas. Period. Full stop.
Section 4 of the bill establishes that the various local governments have the ability to dictate land use matters surrounding the development of oil and gas resources. This is a significant departure from current law, good policy that maintains statewide standards governing land use issues for oil and gas development operations, giving operators certainty around the rules of the road for the complex and expensive process of developing these resources. This is serious, as many local jurisdictions have already demonstrated an appetite to ban fracking.
Today, the COGCC has nine members, with at least three having energy industry expertise – bringing a certain level of professionalism and balance to the mix. SB 181 reduces the number of industry experts to one, while adding activist spots such as people schooled in public health, wildlife protection, and soil conservation. The purpose and result of such changes to the composition of the committee are obvious.
This bill, Democrats’ signature piece of legislation this year, represents an end run around Prop 112, which was defeated by Colorado voters just a few months ago. Except this time it was done without the black and white setback restrictions – concepts that were easily grasped by our educated electorate. Rather, through a slight of hand and some nuanced language, the state’s regulatory framework over our most important industry is about to shift in favor of the governor’s radical and expensive new plan to be 100% renewable energy in a decade.
This is a bad thing for Colorado and just another example of overreach by the Democrat trifecta. The sounds of recall are getting louder and louder.