State house passes new oil and gas rules

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From the Durango Herald (Joe Hanel): “House Bill 1292 passed on a 50-12 vote because it granted approval to all the rules every state agency passed over the last year, including the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.”

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Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, challenged supporters of the rules to visit laid-off energy workers in his district. “Don’t stand here and say we’re not hurting their jobs until you look them in the eye,” Gardner said.

Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, turned the challenge back on Gardner. “I’d offer the same invitation to visit my folks. How about the 400 people who complained last year about contamination in their water wells?” Curry said.

Curry said the COGCC told her Thursday that it will take a new look at one of the most controversial rules May 6. That rule allows the state health department and Division of Wildlife to appeal COGCC decisions to grant drilling permits. The new May 6 rulemaking will consider removing the appeal rights for those two agencies, Curry said.

The Senate will consider HB 1292 next.

More coverage from the Denver Post: “The bill passed 50-13. Rep. Wes McKinley of Walsh was the only Democrat to vote against the bill.”

More coverage from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

In approving the final reading of House Bill 1292, the House renewed a spirited ebate it began Thursday, when it first approved the rules in an informal voice vote. The debate has pitted advocates of increased protections for wildlife, the environment and public health, against opponents who say concern about the new rules is contributing to sharp cutbacks in drilling in the state.

The bill also covers a wider range of state rules that go far beyond oil and gas operations. That put some lawmakers in the position of having to decide whether to approve the measure despite concerns about the oil and gas portion of it.

Ultimately, 14 Republicans voted for the bill and 12 Republicans and one Democrat, Wes McKinley of Walsh, opposed it. Area Republican lawmakers Laura Bradford of Collbran, Steve King of Grand Junction, Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs and Scott Tipton of Cortez voted no.

Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, supported the measure, as did Ellen Roberts, R-Durango…

State Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, this week criticized Curry, saying she was in a position to lead efforts to fix problems with the rules as chairwoman of the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee. “Why has she turned her gavel into a rubber stamp?” Penry asked.

Curry didn’t respond to messages for comment Thursday or Friday. However, she said during House debate that the administration of Gov. Bill Ritter has gone along with her request to have the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission revisit one issue of contention. It involves a provision that would let wildlife and health agencies ask for oil and gas commission hearings to reconsider approval of drilling-related permits.

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