2015 Colorado legislation: Bills on Colorado ski-area water, mineral rights do a face plant in Legislature — Denver Business Journal


From the Denver Business Journal (Ed Sealover):

Democrats on the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Monday killed Senate Bills 64 and 93, both sponsored by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, on party-line votes.

SB 93 would have required local governments to compensate mineral-rights owners for imposing new regulations that limited the use of their land, while SB 64 would have banned the federal government from requiring ski resorts to hand over their water rights in exchange for permits to use federal land.

Democratic leaders had complained that SB 64 was unenforceable and was moot after the federal government stopped requiring such concessions several years ago, and they claimed that SB 93 established a takings principle that only courts are allowed to interpret.

But Rep. Jon Becker, the Fort Morgan Republican who acted as the House sponsor for both bills, said afterward that Democrats “have set a dangerous precedent for all property owners in Colorado by granting their misguided ideology more weight than private property rights.”

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

Senate Bill 93 would have offered a means for mineral-rights owners to claim compensation from a local government if that government reduced the value of the owner’s royalties by at least 60 percent.

The measure previously made its way through the Republican-controlled Senate but was rejected on a party-line vote by the Democratic-controlled House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

A second measure, House Bill 1119, would have also held a local government liable for the value of lost royalties if that government enacted laws that limited natural-gas and oil extraction. That measure was also killed by the House earlier in the session.

Supporters said the issue had to do with property rights. Colorado is still grappling with the controversial issue of fracking after a task force recommended only modest steps to address local control over rules and regulations.

“We can all agree that in the state of Colorado these mineral rights are as much of a property right as the property you have in your home,” said Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, who sponsored SB 93. “If we do not allow access, then they should be just compensated for the loss of use of those rights as if they were a taking.”

The state currently holds the authority to enact rules and regulations. But several local governments have taken matters into their own hands through ordinances and voter initiatives. Those actions have setup legal battles.

Residents are threatening to once again take the issue to the ballot in 2016 since the oil and gas task force did not take concrete steps.

Mineral-rights owners worry that a ban on fracking in local communities would result in an elimination of their property.

But environmentalists and homeowners spoke of the health, safety, environmental and nuisance factors associated with fracking, including loud noise and the fear of contaminating groundwater with chemicals that are injected into the ground along with sand and water to break open natural-gas and oil deposits underground.

“The point of government is to balance the rights of some people with the rights of other people,” said Jen Bolton, representing both the Audubon Society and Colorado Trout Unlimited. “If you take away the ability of a community to regulate, you take away the ability to solve those sort of issues.”

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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