As debate on reforming regulation of the oil and gas industry in our state moves to the Colorado House of Representatives, it's hard to imagine the hyperbole could get worse. Senate Bill 19-181, which cleared the Senate last week, set a pretty high bar.

From a Denver Post story comes this example.

"State Sen. Rob Woodward, a Loveland Republican, painted the darkest possibilities: 'Marriages will crumble, suicides will increase.''' To which one commenter replied, "Cats will walk backwards, dogs will walk sideways and locusts will play banjos."

Hard to top Woodward, but someone will likely try.

As the amended bill moves to the House, an even friendlier political battleground, let's examine some of the more common arguments against prioritizing public health and safety, applying majority rule to forced pooling, allowing the same sorts of local rules for drilling and production that already apply to similar industrial activities and other important changes.

Heard loudest and most often is the all-too-familiar "Chicken Little" lament that the rules changes will drive the oil and gas industry out of the Colorado, killing jobs and costing the state and local jurisdictions hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues.

There are more than 53,000 producing wells in Colorado, miles and miles of pipelines, compressor stations, storage and upgrade facilities and other associated infrastructure. Will all those wells be capped? Will all that investment be mothballed? Will the industry walk away from production that totaled 16.8 million barrels of oil and 1.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas last year? That's what it would take for doomsday predictions to become reality.

We heard the same fear mongering around 2008 rules changes, which the industry now touts as "the toughest in the nation" only after first challenging some of them in court. Since 2008, 20,000 new wells have been completed and production has increased 453 percent according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Those dead dinosaurs and all that decaying vegetation are where they are and will continue to be tapped, subject to market conditions.

Supposedly the reform effort ignores the will of the people because Proposition 112 was rejected last November. But that overreach was solely about setback distances, which are not addressed at all in SB181. If we're to consider the vote on 112 as a benchmark, what about Amendment 74, the industry's failed effort to penalize any stronger new rules by requiring "takings" compensation for lost opportunities? Wasn't that also rejected overwhelmingly?

Another inconvenient electoral truth — wasn't the turnover in legislative seats that left Democrats now advancing reforms in charge of all three branches of state government compelling evidence of the will of voters?

Then there's the hypocritical noise about speed and process. Are things rushed when there reportedly was four times the testimony in just the first committee hearing about SB181 as occurred in total about 2018's SB1, the all important transportation spending proposal? And some of us also have personal experience with GOP party line votes.

Anyone who has spent time at the Legislature knows reading bill titles at unintelligible auctioneer speed is standard procedure. Some recall the "Midnight Gerrymander" Republicans forced through in the final minutes of the 2003 session, employing five or six speed readers to simultaneously read different bill portions when Democrats asked that entire proposal be read. Hard to be sympathetic about crocodile tears when the political worm turns.

Here's what's true.

Nothing in SB181 forces local governments to develop regulations similar to those already employed when considering other extraction activities such as gravel pits. Sponsor-accepted amendments require that any local rules be "necessary and reasonable" and allow industry to seek a "technical review" from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

In multiple committee hearings, despite industry busing in employees paid to be at the capital, there's been more testimony in favor of these reforms than against. Industry groups and some companies belatedly admit prior notice of the legislation but still complain they were not allowed to help write it.

These long-needed common-sense reforms will assuredly pass and be signed into law by the governor despite all the fear-mongering and doomsday predictions. After a few court challenges and some administrative shaking out, they'll ultimately become the latest "toughest in the nation" rules touted by an industry that'll still be drilling and producing in Colorado.

"Chicken Little" will get some rest. And those locusts can put down their banjos.

Jim Spehar's seen this movie before, many times. Comments welcome to

Getting It Right: Jim Spehar's March 10 column, "We can have it all for a penny," misidentified referred questions on next month's ballot. The ballot questions cover these areas: Referred Measure 2A is for transportation network improvements; 2B is for police and fire services and facilities; 2C is for the community center and improvements to Orchard Mesa Pool and Matchett Park. The mistakes should have been corrected in the editing process.