Curry bill clears House in 60-3 vote
Legislation addressing surface-use issues related to oil and gas development sailed through final approval in the Colorado House of Representatives Thursday in a 60-3 vote.The action means the measure now goes on for consideration in the Senate.The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, said she was surprised by the resounding vote in favor of the bill. But she expects the heavily amended bill is due for even more changes.”There’s no doubt in my mind that there will be work done on it in committee in the Senate,” she said.Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, will carry the bill in the Senate.It seeks to encourage surface-use agreements between oil and gas developers and property owners. Currently, companies can skip an agreement and proceed with drilling by posting bonds as low as $2,000. Curry’s measure would raise the bond requirement to $15,000.The House had debated the bill Wednesday before providing tentative approval to it on a voice vote. Curry said she was the only lawmaker to talk about it on Thursday, as she tried to clarify its legislative intent for courts, should its language become an issue in lawsuits.The bill calls for surface owners to be compensated based on current fair market value for disturbances related to energy development. But it also says land should be subject to reasonable use by oil and gas developers. Curry said there is some fear that the industry might use that to argue against having to provide fair compensation.She said she would like to amend the measure to address that language, but the industry is adamantly opposed to removing it. She expects the issue to be discussed when it is heard in the Senate. The bill probably will be assigned to the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resource & Energy Committee.On Wednesday, state Rep. Mark Larson, an Archuleta County Republican, tried to amend Curry’s bill to adopt as law stricter noise rules associated with oil and gas development. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission recently adopted the new limits. Larson is concerned about the industry’s current attempt to have them revoked, which would be harder to do if they were a law rather than administrative rules.Larson’s attempt failed because the noise rules didn’t fit within the subject of Curry’s bill. But Curry said his concern remains valid.”He’s absolutely right that that’s still hanging out there,” she said.Curry expressed satisfaction over the bill’s House approval Thursday, but also said she was weary over the process leading up to the vote.”At times on this issue both sides dug their heels in. It’s a wonder we have a bill at all,” she said.”I’m happy it got out of the House, but I’m exhausted by the process. The lobbying was intense on this bill.”
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.