Despite industry opposition, a proposal (HB 1297) to have the state study the possible health impacts from oil/natural gas development is going to the Colorado state Senate for consideration after passing in the House of Representatives by a 38-26 vote Thursday. It will be assigned to a committee for initial review in the Senate.

HB 1297 calls for the study to concentrate on the oil/gas activities along the Front Range, including the greater Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin, focusing on Larimer, Weld, Boulder, Broomfield, Arapahoe and Adams counties. A similar measure last year was rejected by lawmakers, along with a whole series of energy-related bills (see Daily GPI, May 13, 2013).

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association is opposed to the bill and has testified against it.

The bill’s authors estimate that the multi-year study will cost $690,000, cover a number of public hearings and be final by the start of 2017.

Under the current provisions of the bill, the state Department of Public Health and Environment (DPHE) would be tasked to do the study, which would consist of mailed and online health surveys of people living near where oil and gas are produced, along with a review of other pertinent health studies.

HB 1297 calls for a nine-member scientific advisory committee to be formed, along with the DPHE’s chief medical officer, who will appoint the other members. Lawmakers will be excluded and people from the six counties being surveyed will be emphasized in member selection.

There will also be 10 non-voting members, including representatives from the oil/gas industry, but not including any exploration/production companies now operating in Colorado. Other members will be from the environmental, statistical, economics and medical sectors. Experts from the public/environmental health, epidemiology, toxicology and behavioral/social sciences will be retained.

Committee meetings will be public sessions. The current regular state legislative session in Colorado is scheduled to adjourn May 7.

One of the authors of the legislature, Rep. Joann Ginal from Fort Collins, said people throughout the state have raised concerns about potential effects from increased oil/gas activity, which is nearing all-time peak levels.

“This analysis will help our state be better informed and make educated decisions as we move forward,” Ginal said.