Colorado GOP blocks nation’s first well-mapping requirement
May 9, 2017
DENVER — Colorado Republicans used a late-night filibuster Monday to block a first-of-its-kind requirement that oil and gas producers provide the locations of all their gas lines.
Democrats who rule the House were planning to pass the bill before midnight, their deadline to get it to the governor’s desk before the Legislature concludes work for the year.
But the chamber’s 28 Republicans successfully extended debate, saying the mapping requirement isn’t needed and wouldn’t improve public safety.
The bill was in response to a deadly home explosion in April that was traced to gas seeping from an old severed underground pipeline, called a flow line.
Democrats called for a searchable statewide map of gas lines. Some states have searchable statewide well maps, though none has come up with the maps by requiring oil and gas producers to disclose well sites.
“The reason this is coming up is that two people are dead in our community,” Democratic Rep. Matt Gray said.
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But Republicans pointed out that oil and gas regulators have already ordered safety reviews of the state’s 54,000 or so wells.
They also argued that homeowners can find out about wells now using technology called the geographic information system, or GIS. Though no state keeps a central database of those lines, they’re not hidden, either.
“You’d have to go back to the ’50s to find lines that aren’t mapped out,” said Republican Rep. Phil Covarrubias. “It’s ridiculous to say we don’t know where lines are.”
The measure was inspired by an April 17 home explosion that killed two people last month in Firestone, a small town in northern Colorado. Investigator concluded that the explosion was caused by a gas escaping from a nearby flow line.
The well was drilled in 1993. State records show it was shut down all of last year and resumed production in January, although the records do not show the reasons.
The statewide mapping bill stood little chance from the beginning. For one, the state Senate is controlled by Republicans who oppose the map requirement.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former geologist, said after the explosion that improved well maps are important but may be better kept by county and local authorities, not state regulators.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to know where those lines are. I’m not compelled that it’s got to be the state that controls that,” Hickenlooper said.
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