Surface-use bill moves forward
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER – A new approach to dealing with landowners’ concerns about impacts from oil and gas drilling received initial approval from the Colorado House of Representatives Tuesday.
The measure requires the industry to take reasonable steps to minimize impacts on land, and declares unreasonable impacts by the industry to be trespassing. In litigation or arbitration that arises, a landowner must show that those impacts have “materially interfered” with the landowner’s use of the property.
“Oh, man, am I pleased,” said state Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, moments after the measure’s unanimous passage by a voice vote.
This is Curry’s third year of trying to pass legislation seeking to better balance the rights of landowners and owners of underlying minerals. Mineral owners and energy companies have the right to go onto others’ property to extract underground resources, but some landowners say those surface uses sometimes result in excessive, uncompensated impacts.
Curry, whose House district includes part of the gas drilling hot spot of Garfield County, has been the prime sponsor of past surface-use measures but this year is a co-sponsor instead. The new bill was introduced by Ellen Roberts, a Republican whose district includes La Plata County, another leading area of gas production in the state.
The new bill still must undergo a final House vote and, if approved, would go to the Senate. A surface use bill Curry carried last year was passed in the House but she pulled it while it was in the Senate because of unresolvable differences between various interest groups on the issue.
Curry said the energy industry is opposed to the trespass language in the new bill, and she was surprised that no lawmakers voted against it Tuesday. But she expects that some will vote against it in its final House vote.
Liane “Buffie” McFadyen, a Democrat who sits on the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, joined Curry and Roberts in speaking in support of the measure Tuesday on the House floor.
“If we don’t find resolution to this issue, this issue isn’t going away,” McFadyen said.
Curry said if the House passes the measure, she isn’t certain of its chances in the Senate. She said she needed to check with the bill’s Senate sponsor, Jim Isgar, a La Plata County Democrat, to see if he still supports the measure after it was amended by the House.
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