March 11, 2019
Oil and Gas Bill Debate
Senate Bill 181 was introduced on Friday, March 1 and was heard in the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee on Tuesday, March 5 where it passed 4-3 on a party-line vote. Over 600 people signed up to testify on the bill, and the hearing lasted 12 hours.
It quickly moved to the Finance Committee and in a hearing on Thursday, the bill again passed on a party-line vote, even though committee members were visibly surprised by Weld County Assessor Brenda Dones’ testimony. She explained that the passage of the bill would effectively slow down or stop oil and gas shared detailed analysis of the significant impact upon every local government and the state due to the adjustments that would have to be made to the residential assessment rate under the Gallagher Amendment which would result in a 9 percent reduction to all local government in their property tax revenues.
Sponsored by Boulder legislators KC Becker and Stephen Fenberg, the bill would give some local governments the control they want, including the ability to ban gas and oil completely. The bill would also halt drilling applications and future applications until implementation of every rule in the 27-page bill, which could take years, although the bill’s sponsors say this is not their intent. Oil and gas supporters say this means a de facto, multi-year moratorium on oil and gas permits.
In addition, the bill would change the composition of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission composition by eliminating the requirement for three of nine members to have “substantial experience in the oil and gas industry.” Instead, the commission would have one oil and gas expert and others with expertise in wildlife, environmentalism, soil conservation and public health.
The Colorado Association of REALTORS®, the Northern Colorado Business Alliance and a variety of business-friendly organizations sent a letter to Governor Polis and legislative leadership just before the bill was introduced, calling for “serious and thoughtful consideration” on any oil and natural gas proposals this session. The letter asked for “reasonable compromise and workable outcomes.” Unfortunately, SB-181 does not appear to be reasonable and it certainly was not crafted in a collaborative manner.
Here’s a link to an op-ed letter from Ken Salazar, the State’s former Attorney General, and a Democrat: https://tinyurl.com/Salazar-letter