House committee rejects gas drilling oversight bill
DENVER, Colorado – A gas-drilling technique that has raised environmental fears among some won’t see more oversight in Colorado after a Republican-led House panel on Monday rejected an idea to step up reporting of water complaints that may be related to drilling.The measure would have revived annual reports to the Colorado Legislature from the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission on the number of water-quality complaints it received. The measure also would have required state health authorities to report to lawmakers the results of a federal study due out this year on a gas extraction technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”The sponsor of the reporting bill, Democratic Rep. Roger Wilson of Garfield County, argued that the additional reporting would send the message that Colorado officials take seriously the public’s concern over “fracking” and its possible effect on water quality.”Without the public having confidence that we’re looking seriously at this, the public’s choice is to look with suspicion about what is going on” at drilling sites, said Wilson. He said he has received frequent complaints from constituents about drilling and water quality.However, the Republican-led committee voted against the idea, 8-4. An industry official and Republican lawmakers pointed out that the information Wilson identified is going to be public already, so his proposal would simply add a layer of bureaucracy.”We just think it’s a study of a study,” said Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association.Even some “fracking” skeptics questioned how House Bill 1172 would work. Alan Curtis, a water attorney for the Denver firm White & Jankowski, opposed the bill because he pointed out that lawmakers would be relying on the COGCC to conclude whether oil or gas extraction caused problems, an unlikely scenario.”Every single time, COGCC’s opinion is that there is no connection,” Curtis said. “The public, this is going to provide them no comfort at all.”A Republican who voted against the measure, Rep. J. Paul Brown of Ignacio, argued that simply relaying complaints to the Legislature wouldn’t necessarily help lawmakers conclude whether “fracking” is causing water problems.”People can complain about anything,” Brown said.
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