Colorado House Republicans ran out the clock last night on a bill to map Colorado’s oil and gas flowlines, filibustering the legislation, which was introduced in the last days of the session as an attempt to ease public fears after the fatal Firestone home explosion.
The bill, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Mike Foote of Lafayette and Steve Lebsock of Thornton, would have required oil and gas operators and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to work together to identify, map and publish the locations of all major and minor oil and gas lines across the state.
Investigators last week determined that the fatal house explosion in Firestone last month, which killed two residents and critically injured another, was the result of a severed but uncapped line that filled the home’s basement with highly combustible, odorless gas.
Supporters said the bill was a reasonable next step to ensure the safety of Colorado residents. But opponents, like Republican Rep. Cole Wist of Centennial, characterized it as a “knee-jerk” reaction that would complicate the implementation of an existing order by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The governor last week ordered the identification, inspection and pressure testing of all oil and gas flowlines within 1,000 feet of homes by the end of June. That order required operators to disclose endpoints for these lines, but did not call for any mapping.
Sponsors Foote and Lebsock said the bill would have ensured that the COGCC had rulemaking authority to require the mapping of flowlines. Whether or not the commission currently holds that authority remains uncertain.
Last night marked the third defeat in recent weeks of legislation aimed at incrementally regulating Colorado’s oil and gas industry. A proposal to increase the mandatory distance between school property lines and oil and gas development was defeated on April 12. A bill that would have given homeowners more notice that they would be force-pooled by oil and gas companies failed in Senate committee last week.
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The legislative session ends Wednesday.
Cover image: Firestone house explosion, April 17, 2017. Photo by Dennis Herrera.