Government Affairs: State of Colorado

July 12, 2019

Colorado Law Hindering SB-181

According to the Denver Business Journal, state law has emerged as a surprise obstacle to regulators hiring administrative law judges to help make decisions about permits for drilling new oil and gas wells. Senate Bill 181 included a provision allowing the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to hire administrative law judges, or ALJs, and have them review some permit applications, resolve mineral rights disputes and other oil and gas related issues.

Using ALJs would allow the COGCC staff to tackle a backlog of more than 6,300 well-drilling permit applications built up at the agency. It also would free the COGCC to undertake regulatory rulemakings required by SB-181.

But the COGCC says it can’t hire ALJs because Colorado’s administrative procedures law doesn’t authorize the COGCC to employ them. The COGCC likely will ask the state legislature to amend the administrative procedures act and allow the COGCC to hire ALJs, but the legislature is not in session to amend state law until January. A spokesman said the commission is on hold until that happens.

At the end of June, the COGCC pressed ahead this week with two days of public hearings about its proposed procedural changes for permitting decisions. After hours of testimony, the COGCC ended the hearings without deciding on the rule-change proposal, postponing a vote until its July hearings at the earliest.

Building Permit Caps

In a July 2ndspecial election Lakewood voters approved a cap on residential construction that will be among the strictest in the metro area. Almost 53 percent of voters favored the cap, with 47 percent against it. Question 200 limits the construction of new homes and apartments each year to no more than one percent of the existing housing stock in the city and would require City Council approval of large development proposals.

In the meantime, a similar ballot measure for a more widespread building permit cap that would impose a 1 percent cap on new homes throughout metro Denver for 2021 and 2022 received approval from the Colorado Secretary of State’s title board last week. Now known as Initiative 109, “Limits on Local Housing Growth” supporters may collect signatures to get the question on the November ballot. If this sounds familiar it is because the same group tried to get a similar question on the ballot last year.

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