One of the first oil and gas bills of this year’s legislative session was introduced (today/Wednesday). As Bente Birkeland reports, it aims to compensate mineral rights owners who aren’t able to develop oil and gas because of local regulations.
State lawmakers are mostly holding off on introducing energy related bills this session. While oil and gas development is a hot topic, legislatures are waiting for a report from the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task force. The task force is holding meetings this week in Greeley and is charged with crafting recommendations to help mitigate the impacts of drilling to communities, and harmonize local and state regulations. The group has held hearings across the state and the final meeting is next month.
“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, & Energy committee said he’s trying to be proactive. He’s introduced senate bill 93, one of the few oil and gas bills of the session. It would allow mineral owners to get compensated a 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?” said Sonnenberg. “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 GOP controlled senate, but with split legislative control any bill needs bipartisan support to reach the Governor’s desl.
The measure will first be heard in the Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Energy committee. No hearing date is set.