The Latest: Governor says Colorado must make drilling safer
DENVER (AP) — The Latest on the Colorado Supreme Court ruling on oil and gas rules (all times local):
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis says lawmakers and regulators need to make oil and gas drilling safer after the state Supreme Court ruled that regulators can’t make public health and the environment their top priority.
Polis said he was disappointed by Monday’s ruling.
Polis, a liberal Democrat, was sworn in last week. He will have considerable support to tighten industry regulations because both houses of the Legislature are now under Democratic control.
As a congressman, Polis once backed state limits on hydraulic fracturing but withdrew in a compromise with then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, who tried to negotiate a truce on drilling decisions between the industry and environmentalists.
Polis has pledged to give local governments more of a voice in regulating the industry, particularly decisions on where wells can be drilled. That’s a contentious issue in Colorado, where drilling rigs sometimes go to work near homes and schools.
Polis has also vowed to pursue a 100 percent renewable energy goal for Colorado by 2040.
The leader of Colorado’s Democratic-controlled House says the Legislature will work to change the law so the oil and gas industry has to do more to protect public health and the environment.
House Speaker KC Becker made her comments Monday just after the state Supreme Court ruled that current state law doesn’t allow oil and gas regulators to make health and environment their top priority.
Becker says regulators aren’t looking at those issues early enough in the permitting process. She also says the reviews aren’t consistent.
She says residents are concerned about the industry’s impact on air and water and about the potential for explosions.
In 2017, two people were killed in a home explosion and fire blamed on a severed pipeline from a nearby natural gas well.
The Colorado Supreme Court says state law doesn’t allow regulators to make public health and the environment their top priority when setting rules for oil and gas drilling.
The ruling released Monday said state law requires regulators to “foster” oil and gas production while protecting public health and the environment. But the court says regulators must take into account whether those protections are cost-effective and technically feasible.
The ruling is a victory for the industry.
Community advocates and environmental groups wanted the court to rule that health and the environment should take precedence over oil and gas production. That could have brought tougher rules on where companies can drill.
The location of oil and gas wells is a contentious issue in Colorado, where oil fields and cities often overlap.
The Colorado Supreme Court is set to rule on a high-stakes lawsuit over how much weight regulators should give public health and the environment when setting rules for the oil and gas industry.
The court is expected to issue a decision Monday.
Regulators have long said that state law requires them to balance health and environmental concerns against the rights of energy companies to drill. But the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in 2017 that health and environment should have a higher priority.
That could significantly change Colorado’s long-running battle over the proliferation of wells near fast-growing urban areas, giving opponents more power to argue for safety measures, including restrictions on where wells can be drilled.
The state attorney general asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Court of Appeals ruling.