With unprecedented speed, Democrats in the Colorado House on Friday passed an amended oil and natural gas reform proposal, inserting slight changes that could make it more palatable to the energy industry.
Concurrence in the state Senate, also controlled by Democrats, was expected Monday before it heads to the governor’s desk for a likely signature.
"A few of the amendments begin to address some of our concerns," said spokesperson Scott Prestidge of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. "The process has a way to go, and we'll have to see what happens in the Senate on Monday."
After a streamlined process covering less than a month, including multiple committee hearings in the General Assembly, the House passed the measure on a third reading by a 38-26 vote.
The bill would give local governments expanded oversight into future oil and gas development while reducing somewhat the scope and powers of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).
Nearly a dozen amendments watered down the local authority to require action by cities and counties so that it is "reasonable," and drilling bans would not be considered to meet that criteria. Similarly, there is now language that requires that the COGCC become "re-professionalized" in its makeup and authority.
Throughout the accelerated legislative process, Senate Bill 181 drew vocal opposition and spurred an effort to have a measure on the November statewide ballot to essentially repeal the legislation if it is signed into law as expected by Gov. Jared Polis.
Colorado voters last November rejected by a 57% margin Proposition 112, a measure that would have prevented some drilling in the state.
Under SB 181, local governments are granted the authority to regulate oil and gas operations under the same planning and land-use powers they hold over other industries. It also deals with the use of forced pooling, requiring that a majority of mineral owners agree, rather than only one owner, to allow operators to proceed with producing oil and gas supplies in a given area.