Skip to main content

Tracee Bentley's testimony opposing Colorado House Bill 1355

As prepared for delivery

Testimony opposing Colorado House Bill 1355
Tracee Bentley, Executive Director, Colorado Petroleum Institute
Denver, Colorado
Monday, March 21, 2016

Good Afternoon Madame Chair and Members of the Committee. My name is Tracee Bentley. I am the Executive Director of the Colorado Petroleum Council. The Colorado Petroleum Council is a division of the American Petroleum Institute, which represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry. Our more than 650 members, from the largest major oil company to the smallest of independents, come from all segments of the industry. They are producers, refiners, suppliers, pipeline operators and marine transporters, as well as service and supply companies that support all segments of the industry.

I would like to begin by thanking Rep Foote and Rep Ryden for sitting down with us prior to the bill’s introduction to get our feedback. Even though we are clearly opposed to the bill,we appreciated the opportunity to discuss prior to a committee hearing.

The Colorado Petroleum Council is opposed to HB 1355 for the following reasons:

  • The core issue addressed by the bill – county and municipal government authority to zone, regulate and restrict the siting of oil and gas facilities – is currently being considered by the Colorado Supreme Court in two separate appeals brought by Longmont and Fort Collins. Decisions in these cases are expected soon. At a minimum, the legislature should refrain from acting until these cases are decided in order to minimize confusion and conserve legislative resources that could be better directed once the Court has definitively ruled on these issues.
  • Notwithstanding the premature attempt to turn COGCC authority under the Oil and Gas Conservation Act on its head, the bill will clearly invite local ordinances that are in tension with the state’s continuing interests in protection of land and mineral owners’ rights, prevention of waste, and efficient development of natural resources. Such ordinances will spawn even more litigation and costs for local government.
  • If local ordinances authorized under this legislation affect currently producing wells or executed leases, localities could also be exposed to regulatory takings litigation.
  • For decades, the public and oil and gas operators have relied on the technical expertise and resources of the COGCC with respect to geology, hydrology, and human health and the environment. By turning the critical issue of siting back to local governments, the bill imperils safety and environmental protection across the state.
  • Similarly, operators have relied on statewide consistency of COGCC rules. This bill would force companies to contend with a patchwork of 64 different sets of county and countless municipal siting rules, which in turn will drive jobs and investment out of state.
  • The bill seems to permit exclusionary zoning schemes (i.e., bans and moratoria on oil and gas development), which Colorado courts, including the Supreme Court, have consistently struck down as applied to oil and gas development for over twenty years. 
  • Other producing states that have recently considered this issue, including Ohio, Texas and West Virginia, have rejected plenary local zoning authority over oil and gas wells. Only one state has embraced total local exclusionary zoning authority – New York – where natural gas development is effectively banned.