Contact: Jace Woodrum, 720-412-3772
Date: February 1, 2018
Environmental Groups Applaud House Committee Passage of Bill to Put Public Safety Above Oil and Gas Profits
Today, the House advanced HB-1071, Regulate Oil Gas Operations Protect Public Safety. The 7-6 vote comes just days after the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear the Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission appeal, shining a spotlight on the conflict between the oil and gas industry and the welfare of the public.
In response, Conservation Colorado and the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Citizens (LOGIC) issued the following statements:
“There really is no debate here: Colorado must prioritize the health and safety of our residents and the preservation of our environment when regulating the oil and gas industry. We need the state to set a strong standard that directs the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to put people over profits,” said Sophia Guerrero-Murphy, Energy Advocate, Conservation Colorado.
“Oil and gas has chosen to try to force large-scale industrial facilities nearer homes and schools while proclaiming they have the right to do so. But neither the state, nor the oil and gas industry can continue to make the claim that neighborhood drilling is safe. So when it comes to a question of protecting the public health and safety of Colorado residents, it should be a no brainer. Our state needs to take steps to make the well-being of Colorado families its first priority,” said Sara Loflin, LOGIC Executive Director.
HB-1071, Regulate Oil Gas Operations Protect Public Safety, is a response to large-scale oil and gas development that has been expanding into neighborhoods, especially as Colorado grows and becomes more dense. For years, communities in Colorado have been struggling with how to balance health and safety with heavy industrial activities like oil and gas.
Tragically, in the Spring of 2017, oil and gas development led to a home explosion in Firestone, Colorado, where two people lost their lives, and another was seriously injured. Since then, there have been 14 more oil and gas-related explosions, 6 leaks that contaminated waterways, and 22 leaks that are under investigation for potential contamination of water wells. Even under the safest operating conditions, which aren’t always employed, this industrial activity poses a risk to health and safety.
HB-1071 seeks to compel the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health, safety, and environmental welfare when considering new oil and gas permits. This bill seeks to clarify the state’s priorities in a quickly shifting landscape where the tensions between fostering industry and protecting public welfare are mounting. There are significant hazards and dangers associated with fracking and drilling, especially in urban areas, and any time a permit is considered, the potential impacts on the community and the environment must be weighed.
About Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has ignited the ongoing debate over how to protect the health and safety of Coloradans as oil and gas development expands into neighborhoods and developed areas.
In 2013, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and several other Colorado young people asked the COGCC to adopt a regulation stating that no drilling permits will be issued without a finding that drilling can occur without impairing Colorado’s air, water, and wildlife and that drilling does not adversely affect public health. The COGCC denied the request, holding that it lacked legal authority to issue such a rule. In March 2017, the Colorado Court of Appeals set aside the COGCC’s decision, holding that state law makes “protection of public health, safety and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources” a prerequisite for approving oil and gas development. While rejecting the COGCC’s legal interpretation, the Court did not address whether the agency should adopt the specific rule language requested by the Martinez plaintiffs.
The COGCC and the American Petroleum Institute appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which announced that it would take the case on January 29, 2018.