A funny thing happened at “the Forum,” that is, City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Toward the end of the meeting, assistant city manager Sandi Seader reported on the 100-plus bills in this year’s state Legislature that she is tracking on behalf of Longmont. She wanted direction from council.
Seader is tracking one bill that proposes to make installing residential fire suppressant sprinkler systems compulsory throughout the state.
An ever-lugubrious member of the council’s majority spoke passionately about the importance of “local control.” She’d just hate to see anyone building a home in Longmont being forced to install a ceiling sprinkler system just because the state says so. Unanimous agreement. Local control, yes!
Later, HB 1277 was described (kinda). Sandy paused, then meekly agreed with a usually quiet councilwoman who had quickly opined, “This doesn’t change anything.” Two other councilmen agreed.
The bill’s title is: “Concerning Strengthening Local Governments’ Regulation of Oil and Gas Operations, and, in Connection Therewith, Strengthening Local Government’s Zoning and Land Use Authority Over Oil and Gas Operations.”
In the real world, this bill changes the very basis of the state’s pre-emption of all meaningful local control of oil and gas drilling and extraction.
It simply and succinctly says that “local government regulation of the impacts of land use and development (including oil and gas operations) furthers the state’s interest in orderly land use and environmental protection.”
Without HB1 1277, Colorado state law and case law sustains that the extraction of oil and gas is so vitally important to the state, that only the state can regulate it. The viewpoint of the tyrannical Colorado Oil & Gas Commission is that home rule and local control must be pre-empted.
Without HB 1277,
Can the city zone hazardous multiple gas well pads to the city’s heavy industrial zone? Nope.
Require setback distances from wells to actually protect the people in homes, hospitals, churches, schools, parks, playgrounds, surface waters and home property values? Nope.
Refuse to allow large gas wells on city open space and wildlife sanctuaries? Nope.
Prohibit open pits of toxic waste water? Nope.
Set noise levels? Nope.
Monitor and regulate toxic emissions? Nope.
Inspect the well and well site? Nope.
Have city fees and/or fines to recoup city expenses of monitoring and inspecting the well? Nope.
All of the above local land use and zoning prerogatives are currently pre-empted for oil and gas wells.
HB 1277 clearly states that “an operator” (oil and gas corporation) “is also subject to zoning and land use authority and regulation by local governments, as provided by law.”
The summary of HB 1277 states that it “clarifies that oil and gas operations are subject to local governments’ authority, as well as the authority of the oil and gas commission. The bill establishes that oil and gas operations are subject to the same local control as is established for other mineral extractions.” That is, a lot of Local Control.
HB 1277 concludes: “Safety clause. The general assembly hereby finds, determines and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety.”
HB 1277 is on one side of one piece of paper.
An ever-bellicose council member thundered: “This bill does NOTHING! We gave Representative Jones (the bill’s sponsor) a whole long list of things we wanted. This is only one sheet of paper.” Holding and shaking the piece of paper above his head he roared, “It’s not worth the paper it’s written on!” and tossed it aside.
Council voted to not support HB 1277. Instead, it was relegated to the bin of the hundred or so bills on Ms. Seader’s city watch list.
Strong local control over home fire sprinkling systems? Hell, yes! Longmont’s government lobbies for it!
Stronger local control over oil and gas drilling and wells? Hell, no! Longmont’s council will not endorse.
It really would be funny, if it weren’t so pathetic.
Let’s all, as individuals, contact the House Local Government Committee members to support HB 1277. It is scheduled for hearing Monday afternoon.
Contact information is available at LongmontROAR.org.