DENVER – After a two-day protest from Republicans that shut down proceedings in the Colorado Senate, senators got back to business Wednesday and passed a controversial bill that rewrites the state’s regulations for oil and gas development.
Senate Bill 181 would grant local control over some oil and gas development, impose stricter air-quality monitoring and protect mineral rights owners from having their land forcibly drilled. It passed the Senate on Wednesday on a vote of 19-15; it now heads to the House.
Democrats say the bill will grant municipalities the freedom to impose more regulations on surface oil and gas operations, but that the bill will not enforce a one-size-fits-all approach. Republicans warned that it could still have dire consequences on oil and gas in development, in part because it will have permit processes begin at the local, not state, level.
“We are a boom-and-bust economy in this state,” Minority Leader Christ Holbert, R-Parker, said. “I shudder to think what the negative economic impact would be for Colorado if legislation were to push us into that next bust cycle.”
On Monday and Tuesday, Republicans sought to halt votes on the bill and other controversial measures by ordering the reading of a 2,000-page bill and by starting a daylong debate on the floor. The effort triggered a restraining order against Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, who Republican senators say improperly allowed the 2,000-page bill to be read by computers at 650 words a minute. Efforts to stall proceedings worked: Votes on a death penalty repeal bill were delayed three days and Tuesday’s committee hearings were canceled.
But it was business as usual Wednesday, as the Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed a bill to consider a state-backed insurance plan, a measure that has already been approved by the House. That bill, House Bill 1004, now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee. On Thursday, senators were expected to give a second reading to Senate Bill 182, a repeal of the death penalty.
Friday will be another big day in the Senate, as the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee will hear testimony on the fractious red flag gun bill, which passed the House last week. The bill would grant law enforcement the right to seize firearms from people determined by a court to be a threat to themselves or others.
At least two Colorado counties, including Montezuma, have vowed not to enforce the measure, if it passes.