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Colorado Governor Set to Sign Drilling Package; Impact Unknown

In the next few days, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter is expected to sign into law landmark regulations that overhaul rules for the state's natural gas and oil drillers after the Colorado General Assembly officially approved the package on Wednesday.

The Colorado Senate, controlled by Democrats, approved the rules package in a straight-party vote and sent it to Ritter for his signature (see Daily GPI, March 25). The Democrat-controlled House earlier this month had signed off on the rules package (see Daily GPI, March 16).

Ritter plans to sign the legislation but has not set a date, said a spokesman. The governor, also a Democrat, has been a staunch supporter of the rules changes, which were completed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) late last year (see Daily GPI, Dec. 10, 2008). The General Assembly had approved legislation to require the COGCC to update the rules in 2007, when the gas drilling boom was under way.

The General Assembly was required to conduct only a cursory review of the rules package to ensure that it met the legal boundaries set under 2007 legislation. The COGCC had conducted extensive public hearings across the state before finalizing the package.

Although many of the rules revisions are minor, producers had fought changes that give more weight to wildlife habitat and migration, environmental protection and public health and safety.

Meg Collins, president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, said the rules "are far from perfect and there still remains a question of how they'll affect jobs, the economies of the local communities where the industry has operations and how they're going to impact private property rights."

State Sen. Chris Romer, a Democrat, said Wednesday the rules overall pass the "son-in-law test" by not being as good (i.e., stringent) as the environmentalists had wanted nor as bad as opponents had feared.

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