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Colorado Drilling Rules Pass First Legislative Test

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View Bill Walker's blog posts
09 March 2009, 1:40 PM

Last week, a Colorado legislative committee approved new oil and gas drilling rules that will protect drinking water, wildlife and the state's natural resources. The state spent almost two years developing the rules, which will be the most comprehensive in the nation, to deal with the impacts of the state's unprecedented oil and gas boom.

Earthjustice has been there since the beginning as attorneys for the Colorado Environmental Coalition. Before the committee hearing, Earthjustice activists in Colorado sent more than 1,300 e-mail messages to legislators urging their support.

The oil and gas industry is making a last-ditch attempt to derail the rules with scare tactics, claiming without evidence that the new rules will drive drilling rigs to neighboring states.

At the hearing, legislators made it clear they had no time to listen again to such unfounded arguments. The debate Friday was strictly about whether the rules fit within the boundaries the legislature originally set for them.

Committee chairwoman Sen. Jennifer Veiga (D-Denver) said:

Our purview here and our review here is very narrowly focused on whether these rules exceeded statutory authority. We are not focused on whether these rules are good public policy or bad public policy.

Good policy they are. The new rules require, for the first time, oil and gas companies to disclose the dozens of toxic chemicals used in drilling, which can contaminate drinking water or directly harm workers and other people exposed to them. Protections will also be increased for wildlife, streams, mountains and forests.

The bill now heads to a vote on the state House floor, probably within two to three weeks.

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