School setback bill rejected by Colorado Senate committee

Alex Zorn

This natural gas rig in 2015 was about 1,100 feet from the Battlement Mesa Middle School.
Randy Essex / Post Independent |

A Colorado Senate committee on Wednesday killed a bill that would have increased oil and gas activity setbacks from schools.

The Colorado Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee rejected House Bill 17-1256, affirming the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Committee’s role as governing authority when it comes to such regulations.

The bill, proposed by Longmont Democrat Mike Foote, and sponsored in the Senate by Democrats Matt Jones and Irene Aguilar, would have clarified that oil and gas production facilities and wells be located at least 1,000 feet from the school property line, rather than school buildings, as COGCC rules state.

While the bill was met with harsh criticism from industry supporters, community organizations such as Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Western Colorado Congress were vocal in their support of the bill and thus were disappointed to see it rejected.

“Western Colorado Congress and the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance are deeply disappointed with the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee’s vote against House Bill 1256,” the two organizations shared in a statement Wednesday. “This was a common-sense bill that would have fixed an oversight in setback rules that allow large scale oil and gas facilities too close to playgrounds and athletic fields. … A vote against this bill was a clear vote against the health and safety of Colorado school kids. It is clear that operators will, and already have, take advantage of oversights and loopholes in the rules.”

Though the bill passed through the Colorado House 37-28 in late March with Democratic representatives providing the support, it faced a tougher test in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate, losing 6-5 in a party-line vote on Wednesday.

Last week the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners publicly opposed the bill as none of the commissioners thought it was necessary to overrule the COGCC.

“I think this is somewhat ambiguous and I would like to see that rule-making continue through the COGCC,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said days before Wednesday’s vote.

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