Gas board disclosure required under bill
DENVER — The Colorado House gave final approval Tuesday to a bill designed to ensure that everyone serving on the state panel that oversees oil and gas production steers clear of any potential conflicts of interest.
The measure, HB1269, initially would have prevented the three so-called industry members of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from actively working for the industry.
But it was amended instead to require those and others on the nine-member panel to disclose any financial conflicts of interest, including listing what companies for which they do work.
Regardless of that softening of the bill, several Republicans still objected to it, saying the entire matter stems from fear over hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method for getting more natural gas out of the ground.
“Sounds like a wonderful idea for a couple of districts in the state of Colorado because they are upset,” said Rep. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction. “Is that how we govern? Based on somebody’s hysteria level? Based on what somebody believes is a problem that doesn’t exist? We’re reaching out to hysterical groups in a couple of districts, and we’re letting the minority control the majority of what the people in Colorado really need and want, and that is not the way we should govern.”
Several lawmakers, all Democrats, said they supported the bill because some of their constituents fear oil and gas drillers will use fracking techniques, which they believe will lead to contamination of their water supplies.
But Republicans said such techniques are common to natural gas production in the state, and there’s no clear evidence it has harmed the environment.
Other Republicans said the bill is only part of a larger effort to end all oil and gas production in Colorado, and the Legislature shouldn’t trample on those property rights.
“Mineral rights are considered property rights in Colorado, and when we start eating away at that, we really go down a trail that can take us to a place we’ve never been before,” said Rep. Tim Dore, R-Elizabeth. “When you intrude on those property rights, you really potentially go down that road that intrudes on freedoms.”
Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, said much was being made of nothing when it comes to the bill. She said Democrats had already reached a compromise with Republicans opponents by turning it into a disclosure measure, rather than one that dictated how the commission should operate.
She said the bill is intended to ease concerns of those Coloradans on the Front Range who have not lived around the oil and gas industry as others in the state have, such as the Western Slope.
“The context for this bill is tremendous public unease, concern over what they are seeing in their backyard,” Levy said. “As we develop this resource, and as (production) moves into parts of the state that have never seen drilling before, the public must have confidence that the rules and regulations that govern this industry are going to protect their health and safety.”
The bill heads to the Senate for more debate.