Ritter defends tougher oil, gas regulation during signing of bill

Gov. Bill Ritter on Wednesday put his official stamp on legislation authorizing new oil and gas rules, which were championed by his administration to better protect the public, wildlife and the environment.

Ritter signed House Bill 1292, a wide-ranging administrative review of rules that includes tougher regulation of energy development.

The rules took effect April 1 on private land and are scheduled to become effective July 1 on federal land. Although the oil and gas rules didn’t require Ritter’s signing of the bill to first be implemented, the legislation he signed allows them and other state rules to continue indefinitely past May 15.

The rules bill also covers non-energy areas such as mortgage protection, hospitals and nurses. But legislative debate focused on the oil and gas rules, which critics say are contributing to a drilling slowdown in the state. Senate Republicans continued that criticism Wednesday, with Assistant Minority Leader Greg Brophy saying Ritter had taken “the final action in his long campaign to destroy the oil and gas industry.”

Ritter, a Democrat, has maintained the slowdown is due to other factors such as low natural gas prices. He contends the rules are necessary to deal with the growth of the industry over the years.

He said in his signing statement Wednesday, “In 1999, Colorado issued 1,000 drilling permits. Last year, the state issued more than 8,000. These new, modern rules recognize this increase in drilling activity as well as the technological changes that have occurred within the industry over the past decade. The rules also incorporate the forward-looking practices already being used by companies such as EnCana, Williams and Gunnison Energy.

“I am committed to helping this industry thrive. Clean-burning natural gas is an important part of Colorado’s new energy economy, and this industry will play a key role in Colorado’s economic recovery and our economic future.”


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