Legislative session passes with no oil, gas drilling regulations

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- The battle over drilling rages on. This year's legislative session ended without the passing of any new bills that would rein in oil and gas drilling practices.

House Bill 1267 which would've increased fines for drilling violations failed to pass on the last day of the legislative session. That's when Governor Hickenlooper took action, prompting the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to review its practices by issuing an executive order.

When it comes to oil and gas, there are always two sides to the argument.

"We felt that the legislature itself showed a lot of wisdom," Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Associates executive director David Ludlum said of this legislative session.

On Wednesday, the state's legislative session ended, but to the dismay of some, no new bills were passed that would further regulate drilling violations.

"We worked really hard to bring increased accountability and transparency to the oil and gas industry," Conservation Colorado field trainer Kate Graham said. "The Hickenlooper administration and oil and gas interests were able to water those pieces of legislation down to the degree that we were no longer able to support them."

"There's always bills each and every year that could potentially harm our industry and others," Ludlum argued.

Colorado Conservation worked with lawmakers to advance bills it says would hold oil and gas companies accountable and ensure the long term health of the valley...

"I think it's important that we don't compromise when it comes to public health and the environment," Graham said.

The Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, though, is looking at the situation in a more positive light.

"I think it's always better to take a look at existing rules and regulations and make sure they're being enforced appropriately," Ludlum said.

Ludlum argues enforcing current rules is better than creating new ones.

"We’re glad to see at this point in time, no bills passed that would've put a damper on development over here," he said.

He says the governor's executive order will address all issues and health concerns by deferring regulations to the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission and allowing them to do their jobs,
but even still, that’s something up for debate.

"The governor's looking at how do we improve existing regulations, how do we update them?" Ludlum said.

"The executive order is not going to bring the same level of strength to issues around transparency and accountability," Graham said.

The governor's executive order is asking the commission to establish minimum fine amounts for violations. It also asks that all violations and penalty assessments are posted online.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission will share the findings in a report by mid-December.

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