The Latest: Lawmakers: No moratorium in Colorado oil-gas law
DENVER (AP) — The Latest on Colorado’s new oil and gas regulations (all times local):
Democratic lawmakers say a new law that refocuses Colorado oil and gas rules on safety was not meant to be a moratorium on drilling, endorsing the position of regulators who plan to keep issuing drilling permits while rewriting the rules.
Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg, one of the bill’s sponsors, said Tuesday the law “clearly contemplated” that the state would continue issuing drilling permits while the regulations were revised.
He says the law gave regulators temporary authority to deny or delay permits to make sure they comply with the spirit of the law while the revisions are underway.
House Speaker KC Becker and Rep. Yadira Caraveo, co-sponsors of the bill, said it was neither a moratorium nor a ban on drilling.
The lawmakers made their comments in emails to The Associated Press.
Colorado officials say they have no plans to stop energy companies from drilling for oil and gas while regulators overhaul state rules to focus on health, safety and the environment.
Dan Gibbs, chief of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said Tuesday that lawmakers never intended for regulators to stop issuing drilling permits while they rewrite the rules.
Gibbs spoke at the first meeting of Colorado’s reorganized Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which will implement a new law that makes protecting the public and the environment the top priority of regulators.
Under the old law, regulators’ focus was on encouraging energy production.
Some environmentalists and community activists asked the commission to stop approving permits till the new rules are complete. Industry representatives argued against a moratorium.
The new-look Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is holding its inaugural meeting as it begins rewriting state rules to emphasize public safety instead of production.
Commissioners are meeting in Denver Tuesday for the first time since Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed a law mandating sweeping changes in oil and gas regulation.
The commission is still reorganizing and isn’t expected to begin rewriting drilling rules until later this year.
The new law weakens industry influence on the commission, reducing its representation from three members to one while adding experts in wildlife and public health.
Republicans also saw their influence wane, echoing their losses in the 2018 election. The new commission has four appointed Democratic members, two unaffiliated members and one Republican. The old commission had four appointed Democrats and three Republicans.