The Colorado Senate has given initial approval to a set of controversial new rules that would regulate the state's energy industry.
The new rules, drawn up by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission were intended to give more weight to the environment and public health and safety, as the the state moves forward with energy development.
While both sides agree that some regulation is necessary to keep Coloradans safe, they have different views about what kind of impact those regulations will have.
Opponents say it's too much regulation for an industry that's already hurting and provisions in the rules will make it more cumbersome for companies to get new permits -- specifically, they're unhappy with a provision that would allow the Colorado Division of Wildlife to appeal a permit that has already been granted if it feels drilling activity could interfere with wildlife. They say rules like these will likely push developers and thousands of jobs out of Colorado.
Supporters say the rules needed to be updated to protect the Colorado landscape both Coloradans and tourists love, and to protect citizens in impacted communities from potential health and safety hazards. They say the natural gas industry is important to them and it's falling gas prices and a lack of pipeline to transport the product -- not the rules -- that's creating the slowdown.
As the rules made their way through the State Legislature, several Western Slope groups on both sides of the issue made trips to Denver to rally state lawmakers to their cause. The Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce took a bus load of energy industry representatives to protest the rules, while the Western Colorado Congress testified before state leaders in favor of them.
"Yes, we're looking at a lot of outside factors," said Diane Schwenke. President of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. "But for people to say that the rules are not going to have any sort of impact with regard to future drilling, I think also is somewhat irresponsible."
"For all the people that deal with this, it's just better all the way around," said Peggy Rawlins, a Western Colorado Congress Board Member. "I know it's hard for people to get used to anything new. This is new and I know that it will be better in the long run."
Tuesday, the Senate gave the rules approval with a voice vote. The rules still must pass an official recorded vote before they can be sent to the Governor Ritter's desk. If passed, he is expected to sign them into law.