Governor heads west to sign bills |

Governor heads west to sign bills

Donna GrayGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signs legislation Tuesday during a visit to Glenwood Springs as Senators Josh Penry and Gayle Schwartz look on. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS Gov. Bill Ritter paid a visit to Glenwood Springs to sign four bills Tuesday, three of which provide more oversight for the oil and gas industry.Earlier in the day, Ritter stopped in Frisco to sign three other bills. One, House Bill 1298, expands the policy of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to focus on public health, environment and wildlife impacts.Later, he visited Grand Junction to sign, among other bills, HB 1341, which expands the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from seven to nine members to bring a better balance of interests to the membership, which currently consists primarily of representatives of the energy industry.Ritter said he wanted to sign the oil and gas bills on the Western Slope because that is where the effects of the industry are being felt and where he heard about the need for reform.

“I heard as much about oil and gas issues in Garfield County” as anywhere else during his campaign, he said.In Glenwood Springs, Ritter signed into law HB 1139, which doubles the percentage of severance tax revenues that come directly to the communities affected by energy extraction. Currently, communities get 15 percent of the revenues, and the state Department of Local Affairs 85 percent, which it awards communities in the form of energy impact grants.”We know it’s not meeting all the impacts but it will direct a higher proportion to the energy extraction communities,” said Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Josh Penry, R-Fruita.Ritter also signed HB 1252, which requires oil and gas developers to minimize surface impacts and makes them liable for damage. Ritter applauded the efforts by members of both parties to pass the legislation. “This was truly a bipartisan effort to put this together,” he said.

Rep. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, co-sponsored the bill: “This is not about stopping development [but is about] the need for compromise,” Roberts said.The bill was also a victory for Curry, who sponsored several similar bills that were defeated in previous years.Curry said the bipartisan nature of the legislation creates “a good working environment for all the stakeholders. [The bills] weren’t too punitive. We’ll see how it works out.”Ritter also signed HB 1180, which requires the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to establish rules by Jan. 1 to ensure the accuracy of gas volume measurement at the wellhead. The bill will also open county assessor records on oil and gas property taxes to the state Department of Revenue.

“We were the only state that did not have a process to verify [natural gas] volumes,” Isgar said.”It’s going to be very helpful for royalty owners and an added check for assessors offices … to confirm production and sales of gas,” said Garfield County Assessor John Gorman.Mary Ellen Denomy, a certified public accountant from Rifle who specializes in oil and gas accounting, also applauded the bill. “It will make sure [royalty owners] will get paid for what [gas companies] are taking out of the ground,” she said.While the Garfield County commissioners supported the bills, Commissioner John Martin, like Curry, was taking a wait-and-see attitude: “Let’s see if it all works and functions properly,” he said. “If it doesn’t, it’s up to us to take it to the workshop and get it fixed.”Ritter also signed Senate Bill 91, co-sponsored by Sen. Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village, which calls for the state to create a map showing all electrical transmission lines across the state to determine which areas can support renewable energy projects.

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