Colorado special session eyed on oil and gas rules

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 6, 2014 at 5:49 pm •  Published: June 6, 2014
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DENVER (AP) — Lawmakers and groups with a stake in oil and gas development in Colorado have a draft bill from the governor's office that seeks to find a compromise on local-control rules — a proposal that could trigger a special legislative session if there's consensus.

The proposal, which comes after months of discussions between the governor's office and various interest groups, is aimed at trying to stave off more than 10 potential ballot initiatives in November to limit fracking. Democratic Colorado U.S. Rep. Jared Polis is financially backing some of the proposals, and he has agreed to drop his support if the proposed measure passes.

The intent of the proposed ballot measures vary, but one of them would allow cities and counties to ban fracking. Energy officials have warned they could have devastating effects on a booming industry.

"We've reached a place in negotiating local-control issues related to oil and gas development where we are soliciting greater stakeholder input," Eric Brown, spokesman for Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, said Friday. "We still need larger support — and particularly bipartisan support — before deciding whether to call a special session."

The draft bill being distributed to lawmakers, oil and gas businesses, environmentalists and the agriculture industry would give local governments more control over setbacks for oil and gas development and regulations addressing noise, and they could set moratoriums on drilling. However, they could not ban fracking outright, and moratoriums could not be "arbitrary or excessive."

Oil and gas businesses could also appeal decisions by local governments in district courts.

The draft doesn't specify a distance for setbacks, but it says that local governments can impose them "in a manner that reasonably balances the recovery of the oil and gas resource" and surrounding communities

There's no timeline on when a special session may be called.

Getting consensus on the proposal with so many interests involved will be a heavy lift, and the governor's office acknowledges that it would be difficult to pass the measure if it's changed.