Republicans introduced two bills that would protect oil and gas companies just before a $7.3 billion gas project received its pre-filling application
Senate Bill 17-035 looks to move tampering with oil and gas equipment from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony
House Bill 17-1124 would strip away local government’s ability to prohibit hydraulic fracking by forcing Colorado to pay for mineral value in the area impacted by a moratorium
Both bills come just before talks of the $7.3 billion Jordan Cove project pre-filling application
Colorado is easily one of the most environmentally friendly states in the country. That is why it is hard to believe two bills introduced in January would give oil and gas companies a significant stronghold over the state.
Senate Bill 17-035
On January 11, Colorado Republican Senator Jerry Sonnenberg Senate Bill 17-035. The bill states a concern for “tampering with equipment associated with oil and gas gathering operations.”
Currently in Colorado, tampering with gas and oil gathering equipment is a class 2 misdemeanor. Class 2 misdemeanors carry up to 12-months in prison and up to a $1,000 fine. To give a comparison, theft of property worth less than $500 is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
SB 17-035 includes “placing another at risk of death or serious bodily injury” into the crime and looks to move it from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony.
Class 6 felonies are the least serious felonies in Colorado, but the punishment can be significantly greater than a Class 2 misdemeanor. One could face up to 18-months in prison and up to a $100,000 fine. Possession of up to 2 grams of methamphetamine is a Class 6 felony.
House Bill 17-1124
Roughly two weeks after Sonnenberg introduced SB 17-035, Colorado Republican Representative Perry Buck along with Republican Senator Tim Neville introduced House Bill 17-1124.
HB 17-1124 aims to force local governments to pay compensation to oil and gas companies, and any other parties that are involved, should a oil or gas gathering operation be interrupted due to opposition.
The bill states that any local government that adopts or enforces an ordinance, policy, or other regulation against conducting hydraulic fracking on an oil or gas well would be responsible for compensation to the company for the mineral value in the area.
HB 17-1124 refers to local government opposition to hydraulic fracking as a “prohibition” against the controversial procedure.
The bill goes on to state that any local government that adopts a moratorium of any duration against oil and gas operations in their jurisdiction shall compensate the oil and gas operators, mineral lessees, and royalty owners for all costs, damages, and losses of fair market value associated with the imposition of a moratorium.
The two bills not only hold power to make oil and gas companies untouchable in Colorado, but they were also both introduced just before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday approved the pre-filing application for the Jordan Cove natural gas export terminal.
The Jordan Cove Project
Just last year the FERC rejected the Jordan Cove project, claiming that gaining easements or pursuing eminent domain through the federal courts was strongly outweighed by the lack of demand for the project.
Then two Japanese buyers showed strong interest in purchasing gas from Jordan Cove and Jera Inc, which put pressure on FERC to quickly approve the project. In total, Jordan Cove will be a $7.3 billion project.
To do the Jordan Cove project, the FERC would have to rely mainly on obtaining eminent domain through the federal courts. Officials expect to obtain around 60% of the pipeline route beneath federal or timber lands. The company claims to have already received commitments from 35% of the other necessary landowners, leaving only a small percentage left to secure.
While the project has gained support from Northwest Colorado officials, the FERC are unable to act until the Trump administration appoints, and the Senate confirms, three new commissioners. Once those appointed are confirmed by the Senate, the FERC can move forward with the project.