A late-session bill in the Colorado Legislature to require extensive mapping of gas flow lines in the wake of a fatal home explosion in Firestone that was linked to a leaking gas pipe died late Monday when Republicans filibustered the bill on the House floor.
- Required oil and gas operators to identify the locations of lines that carry natural gas from wells to protection points,
- Demanded that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission publish them, and
- Required that COGCC share this information with the governments of counties in which the lines are located.
The effort followed an April 17 explosion that took the lives of two men in Weld County, an incident that investigators determined was caused by a buildup of raw natural gas that seeped from an underground gas pipeline.
Gov. John Hickenlooper followed the investigation by ordering that oil and gas companies, within 60 days, inspect and pressure-test flow lines and ensure those that are abandoned are marked, severed from the well and capped.
HB 1372, Lebsock said, was the natural extension of those orders, enabling the state to know more about the vast system of underground lines and the public to be more informed of where they are in relation to their houses.
“Find the lines. Document where they are. Map them,” Lebsock said.
‘A very knee-jerk response’
But Republicans said the bill was an overreaction to a terrible event, especially because oil and gas companies already are working hard to produce the information that the Democratic governor has demanded.
“I suggest we exercise caution, that we exercise restraint, that we allow this process to work,” said state Rep. Cole Wist, R-Centennial. “I’d suggest to you this is a very knee-jerk response to a very tragic yet very high-profile event.”
Not satisfied just to argue the bill down, however, House Republicans worked to filibuster the bill after debate on it began at 11:10 p.m. Monday, knowing that the bill died for lack of time to progress through the Legislature if it did not receive preliminary approval from the House by midnight. The 2017 session of the Legislature must adjourn no later than Wednesday evening.
State Rep. Tim Leonard, R-Evergreen, explained to the House the process of platting property and developing maps based on lines running under properties. Rep. Phil Covarrubias, R-Brighton, walked legislators through excavation permits and how they are granted only after lines are located in the ground.
Finally, around 11:45 p.m., Democrats gave up their efforts and agreed to postpone debate until Tuesday.
Lebsock said that even though there is not enough time to pass the bill through the House and Senate, the House still would finish debate on the bill Tuesday and record a vote on it Wednesday.
“It’s disappointing that some legislators decided to filibuster the bill instead of passing a bill that most folks realize is good for public safety and for local governments to make the proper land-use decisions,” Lebsock said.
Ed Sealover covers government, health care, tourism, airlines, hospitality, restaurants and brewing for the Denver Business Journal. Phone: 303-803-9229.
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