Opinion

Legislature ensured safety, vitality of Colorado’s oil and gas economy

Author: Tracee Bentley - May 16, 2018 - Updated: May 16, 2018

Tracee Bentley

Working together works. Colorado’s just-completed legislative session proved that the natural gas and oil industry, state regulators and other stakeholders could collaborate on effective energy regulation that strengthens safe and responsible natural gas and oil production – benefiting the state economy and individual Coloradans.

This session we saw legislation passed to bolster protections for mineral and royalty owners, increase fees for stationary sources of air pollution, enforce the state’s call-before-you-dig program and ensure safe and orderly processing of certain kinds of naturally occurring radioactive waste – all supported by our industry.

At the same time, legislators rejected measures that would have slowed or halted natural gas and oil development, added red tape and duplicated existing reporting requirements.

For example, one proposal would have required production facilities to be 1,000 feet from school property lines – versus 1,000 feet from the school building itself. This would have had potentially significant impacts on energy development.

The fact is that public health and safety are well protected by the state’s existing setback requirement from high-occupancy buildings – part of comprehensive regulation under the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission – which is supported by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE). The commission has the technical expertise to establish necessary setback requirements that both protect public health and allow safe natural gas and oil activities that broadly benefit the state.

The sum total of legislative activity this session is that Colorado has smart policies and regulations in place that keep people and communities safe while boosting the economy through the jobs, capital expenditures and taxes and fees stemming from a growing natural gas and oil industry.

Specifically, our industry was glad to support SB18-230, modifying regulations that protect mineral and royalty owners if those owners face pooling of their rights prior to operations to access natural gas and oil. The bill created procedures that are more understandable and fair for all stakeholders, including:

  • Requiring that an offer to acquire mineral rights must be provided to mineral owners at least 60 days prior to a forced pooling hearing.
  • Increasing the minimum royalty rate to 15 percent from 12.5 percent.
  • Requiring that every offer letter sent to mineral owners be clear and understandable, with language provided through a link or brochure created by the state oil and gas conservation commission, explaining pooling procedures and options available to mineral owners.

Our industry also backed SB 18-167 to strengthen Colorado’s “811 Call Before You Dig” program by ensuring the program’s enforcement, tightening the notification process and requiring that all new underground facilities – such as natural gas lines and other utilities – can be located electronically by 2020. Other details include:

  • Creation of an underground damage prevention safety commission, which will serve as the program’s enforcement authority and currently is lacking in the program.
  • Ensuring that excavators are accountable for damages that occur, to help create an awareness of the responsibility to notify all necessary parties before excavating.

We’re proud of the work that was done this legislative session and our industry’s participation in a bipartisan process to produce stronger and more efficient practices for Colorado’s energy future. Again, it illustrated the good that come for all concerned from an inclusive, constructive dialogue.

Tracee Bentley

Tracee Bentley

Tracee Bentley is executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute.