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In Greeley, Demonstrators Oppose Proposed Changes To Oil And Gas Regulations

Esther Honig
Opponents to senate bill 181 listen to Weld county Commissioner Scott James.

About 100 people gathered outside the Greeley Chamber of Commerce on Friday to protest a bill that could tighten regulations on the oil and gas industry.  

“It’s just kind of sneaky,” Weld County resident Jolene Luster said about the bill. “We don’t understand it and it’s going to affect a lot of people. And we need to make sure that it doesn’t go through.

After voters handily defeated a measure in November that would have increased oil and gas setbacks statewide,  Luster wondered why lawmakers are supporting a bill that could lead to those greater setbacks in some areas.

The bill would give local governments significant authority to regulate the location of new wells. Currently, only the state has that power. It would also change the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from energy production, to protecting public health and safety.

In addition, the legislation would require that at least half of the mineral rights owners in the same area give their consent before their resources could be pooled. Currently, only one individual has to give consent.

Audrey Carlson attended the protest against the bill with her two children and her dog.

As an employee of the energy industry, Carlson said the new regulations would be bad for business and lead to job loss.

Carlson and many other opponents are outraged that the bill was written without input from major stakeholders.

“Weld County is the biggest producer of oil and gas in the state, and (stakeholders) weren’t brought to the table to ask how this bill will impact them,” she said.

On Wednesday, Colorado's Democratic-controlled Senate took the first step toward passing the bill, despite objections from Republicans and industry representatives who say the changes will  hurt local economies.

The bill will be heard by a House committee on Monday.

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