With the legislature looking at adjournment May 8, a bill (HB 1269) that would restrict oil and natural gas representation and participation on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (OGCC) passed out of committee on a partisan 3-2 vote late Monday night, worrying industry backers.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) is “very much opposed” to the bill, which has been rewritten several times already, according to a COGA spokesman Doug Flanders, who thinks the industry association is “making progress” in its arguments that the bill is unnecessary and would create more problems than it is intended to solve.

“We just did this five years ago,” Flanders told NGI Tuesday, citing an earlier move in 2008 under HB 1314 to completely overhaul the OGCC and its rules, creating the current nine-member body that includes three oil/gas industry representatives.

HB 1269 would eliminate anyone currently connected with the industry from serving on OGCC, although apparently retired oil/gas executives could serve. “The bill would preclude anyone with current oil/gas expertise from serving on the commission,” said Flanders, who added that with technology changing rapidly, the state panel needs industry people with current involvement.

Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources, of which OGCC is a part, opposes the legislation.

COGA contends that the state can’t stay competitive if it keeps changing the rules and regulations every five years, and the same backers for the earlier overhaul are supporting HB 1269, sponsored by lower House Rep. Mike Foote.

Backers of the new measure allege that the OGCC overlooks public health concerns because of undue industry influence, but COGA contends that there is a necessary “balance” between industry and public health concerns that was established five years ago that would now be destroyed.

“One of the biggest problems we have with the bill is that we just did this five years ago, and from business and regulatory certainty standpoint, we can’t be revising our commission every five years,” the Flanders said.

HB 1269 would change OGCC’s mission to a narrower focus on public health and safety only. The industry fears this would allow oil/gas permits to be disallowed for relatively minor human, animal or environmental impacts.

“The bill would completely disrupt the historical balance between oil/gas and health/safety, and it is very important that we be able to balance that,” Flanders said. “There is a business interest as well as a health interest, and you always put the heath interest first, but you also take into account how this impacts the overall state.”

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