Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 181 into law on April 16, setting into motion major changes to the way the oil and gas industry is regulated in Colorado.
The new law grants local governments broad powers to regulate oil and gas operations, including to “zone land use for mineral resource development, to site, monitor, and inspect oil and gas facilities, and to impose fees and fines,” according the bill’s fiscal note.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will move from “fostering” the oil and gas industry to “regulating” it, and will add new rules aimed at protecting health and the environment. The law makes that a full-time, seven-member board appointed by the governor with the Senate’s approval. Only one board member can hail from the oil and gas industry.
The bill first passed the Senate on March 13 with a vote of 19-15, and passed the House on March 29 with several amendments, one of which requires that local regulations are “reasonable” in scope. The Senate approved House amendments on April 3, sending the bill to the governor's desk.
The law's opponents — who argue that it could hurt state and local economies supported by the oil and gas industry — are already seeking to recall certain elected officials that supported the bill and to overturn the new law.
Weld County Commission Chair Barbara Kirkmeyer, along with John Brackney, a former Arapahoe County commissioner, have filed ballot initiative language with the Colorado Secretary of State. Once that's approved, they'll need to gather nearly 125,000 petition signatures to refer an initiative to voters.
Their ballot initiative would remake the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission into a board selected by retired judges from a list of nominees. (Senate Bill 181 lets the governor appoint the board with the Senate's approval.)
Under the ballot initiative, the Commission would also have to adopt the rules that were in place on Dec. 31, 2018. SB181 changed those rules to protect public health and the environment.