Opening up oil and gas

White, Taylor trying to make industries more public

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— Northwest Colorado's two state lawmakers are proposing legislation to make the oil and gas industries more accountable and accessible to the public.

Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, said his House Bill 1180 passed through the state House on Monday by a unanimous vote. The bill, which now moves to the state Senate, would require the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to publicly ensure the validity of measuring devices at all oil and gas wellheads. Those measuring devices would ensure the amount of oil or gas actually produced at a wellhead is the same amount reported as produced.

"There have been instances where those numbers don't match up," White said.

Oil and gas companies pay taxes to the state of Colorado according to company records of how much oil or gas they have produced.

"I believe that, frankly, there are millions of dollars to be collected out there," White said last month.

HB 1180 is co-sponsored by state Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus. While White said the bill so far has received little opposition from oil and gas lobbyists, he expects to hear more disagreement about another bill bearing his name.

HB 1142, primarily sponsored by state Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, "establishes that all statements and documentation filed with a county assessor related to the valuation of an oil or gas leasehold or land are public records that are available for inspection, instead of being considered private documents."

That bill has not yet been heard by the House Local Gov-ernment Committee. Proposed bills are first assigned to a House or Senate committee and then, if approved, move to the entire House or Senate.

"There may be more opposition to that one," White said about HB 1142. "The industry seems to not to want to make their production public - they've talked to me about it. We'll have to watch that one as it comes up; I think the industry is going to lobby pretty hard against it."

State Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, could not be reached for comment Monday, but he also is proposing a bill related to the oil and gas industries.

Taylor's Senate Bill 121, which was assigned to two Senate committees Jan. 27, would eliminate a rule allowing exploration and production waste to be considered solid waste for regulation purposes, and would require the state's oil and gas commission to promulgate, or make public, rules concerning the commercial disposal of exploration and production waste.

White also spoke Monday about his HB 1168, which is awaiting a second reading in the House and would authorize municipalities and counties to create a "forest improvement district" with approval by voters. Such a district could generate revenue for projects to reduce hazardous fuels; fund financial incentives, such as a state income tax deduction, for private landowners who mitigate wildfire risks on their property; and, the bill states, to assist forest officials in "ensuring that communities at risk of wildfire within the district have adopted a community wildfire protection plan and are using appropriate planning, education, and outreach tools."

"That bill will enable us to pay some attention to the pine beetle problem and also to mitigate wildfire risks," White said.

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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