GOP drilling proposal defeated in Colorado Senate |

GOP drilling proposal defeated in Colorado Senate

Kristen WyattThe Associated PressAspen, CO Colorado
Senator Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch testifies about his bill to ban local government from regulating oil and gas drilling during a hearing at the Capitol in Denver on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

DENVER – A simmering conflict between energy companies and local governments in Colorado is proving tricky for lawmakers to settle.A Democratic Senate committee rejected a GOP bill Thursday that would have banned local governments from regulating oil and gas drilling.Republican Sen. Ted Harvey’s measure was at least the fourth bill related to drilling that has been defeated this year. Both Democratic and Republican proposals have been rejected.Harvey’s bill would have made clear that cities and counties can’t go against the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission. The proposal came after some Front Range communities have proposed moratoriums or new limits on where drilling could occur, instead of deferring to state regulations.”Oil and gas is one of the most important industries in Colorado. We cannot make it more expensive for them to do business,” Harvey said.Some Democrats, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, have said the state needs to take precedence when it comes to oil and gas drilling. Hickenlooper said in his State of the State address that the state can’t have a patchwork of drilling regulation.”We intend to work with counties and municipalities to make sure we have appropriate regulation on oil and gas development, but recognize the state can’t have 64 or even more different sets of rules,” Hickenlooper said, referring to the number of Colorado counties.But Harvey’s bill ran into strong opposition from citizens who said the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission shouldn’t have undisputed authority over land use for drilling operations. Dozens of environmental activists turned out to oppose the bill Thursday, along with groups representing city and county governments.”This bill gives all the power to the (oil and gas commission),” said Randee Webb of Aurora. “That’s un-American. It’s not right.”Webb’s home county was among those that retreated on local drilling regulations after receiving a stern warning from Republican Attorney General John Suthers that they couldn’t create zoning limits on gas and oil companies.Suthers’ warning outraged Sandy Toland, of Aurora, who came out Thursday to testify against the bill.”We’re concerned about drilling by our reservoir and by some aquifers,” Toland said.Other defeated drilling proposals this year include a Democratic measure to limit open-pit storage of drilling fluids and a Democratic measure increasing the distance of drilling wells from schools. A Republican proposal to give landowners more notice about mineral rights was also defeated.


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