Here are some of the things that SB-181, the Public Health and Safety oil and gas reform bill, would do. That bill recently passed the state senate and is now being debated in the house.
SB-181 gives local government the ability to require additional bonding, which helps make sure that unscrupulous operators don’t leave taxpayers responsible, as has happened before.
It strengthens property rights and improves due process by reforming “force pooling” law to require a majority of owners, rather than one, to force others into a “pool” for development.
SB-181 gives local government land-use oversight , which is equivalent to the same authorities they have over other industrial operations.
It requires that a state agency doing public business put the public interest first. The new law would clarify that the COGCC mission is not to foster oil and gas development but to oversee and regulate it.
Despite these sensible reforms, like all regulations before, industry predicts SB-181 will bring devastation upon it. And by proximity, upon all of us. Regulations are “placing an intolerable burden on the economy,” and whatever benefit they may bring, the consequences will be too severe, threaten “economic chaos,” bring the possibility "entire industries could fold.”
But as familiar as this refrain, the fear-mongering around SB-181 is legion: “And then before you know it, you have a ghost town, and tourism doesn’t happen here,” one official predicted.
In the end it often is that industry gets its way — until people say enough. Then we get seat-belts, in cars that still exist; we get lead paint off shelves, that are still painted brightly; and we still have refrigerators and shelves of hair products, without ozone-killing chemicals.
Airbags did not kill the automobile (the first quote above), nor did chaos reign when we phased out CFCs (the other quotes). Similarly oil and gas will not disappear because of SB-181.
Despite all the industry hand-wringing, it’s rather simple. If a company can’t ensure its operations don’t threaten health and safety; if it needs special rules and one-of-a-kind permissions to operate; if it acts under a sense of entitlement so pervasive that a company working with a single mineral owner can force frack all the nearby owners; and if an industry cannot even provide hard financial assurances that taxpayers won’t be left holding the bag; then we don’t need that company here. Which is why we need SB-181.