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Bill Seeking Compensation In Response To Oil And Gas Bans Floated At The Statehouse

A drilling site near homes outside of Mead, Colo. in Aug. 2012.
A drilling site near homes outside of Mead, Colo. in Aug. 2012.

While oil and gas development is a hot topic, state legislators are waiting for a report from the Governor's Oil and Gas Task Force, mostly holding off on introducing energy related bills. The task force is charged with crafting recommendations to help mitigate the impacts of drilling to communities, and harmonize local and state regulations.

"I have told some members of the task force, you don't have to send something if there's not a problem," said Senator Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling). "I want to know before you send me a solution, the problem we're trying to fix. And if you can't agree on a problem, don't send me legislation just because you're a task force."

For his part Sonnenberg, who chairs the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy committee said he's trying to be proactive. He's introduced Senate Bill 93 [.pdf], one of the few oil and gas bills of the 2015 session. It would allow mineral owners to get compensated fair market value if they can no longer develop oil and gas because of a local drilling ban.

"If that city would implement a ban, what happens to those property rights?" Sonnenberg asked. "I view it no different than if I bought a property I wanted to build a house on and I was saving money to build a house. If the government came in and said no longer are we allowing houses to be built on that property, all of the sudden that value to that property goes down."

While Sonnenbeg said he has bipartisan support for the proposal, Senator Matt Jones (D-Longmont) was skeptical of the plan. Jones said he would only back the bill if lawmakers also agreed to financially compensate homeowners who've had their properties lose value due to energy development.

Sonnenberg's proposal is likely to clear the Republican controlled Senate, but with split legislative control any bill needs bipartisan support to reach Governor Hickenlooper's desk.

The measure will first be heard in the Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee. No hearing date is set. As for the Governor's Oil and Gas Task Force, the group has held hearings across the state with the latest set for Greeley Jan. 15-16. The final meeting is in February with the group slated to deliver their recommendations that same month.

Copyright 2015 KUNC

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