A proposed bill introduced at the start of this legislative session seeks to regulate oil and gas development to prioritize health and public safety. House Bill 1071 aims to “foster the responsible, balanced development, production and utilization of the natural resources of oil and gas … in a manner consistent with protection of public health, safety and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.” The bill relies on the 2017 Court of Appeals decision in Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Plaintiffs in the Martinez case proposed in 2013 that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission adopt a rule to: “not issue any permits for the drilling of a well for oil and gas unless the best available science demonstrates, and an independent, third party organization confirms, that drilling can occur in a manner that does not cumulatively, with other actions, impair Colorado’s atmosphere, water, wildlife and land resources, does not adversely impact human health and does not contribute to climate change.”
One of the primary arguments in the plaintiffs’ proposal centered around the public trust doctrine, an argument that was previously denied by the Colorado Supreme Court in two 2016 rulings concerning home rule bans on fracking in Longmont and Fort Collins.
The proposal in Martinez was denied and plaintiffs appealed. The Court of Appeals ruling was limited to looking at the role of the commission and what power it had to institute such a rule. The ruling also looked at statute language on oil and gas development that states such development must be “in a manner consistent with” public health, safety and environmental impact.