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Colorado Legislation Could Halt Oil and Gas Production

House Bill 1071, if enacted as written, will obviate the need for the Colorado Supreme Court to resolve the dilemma caused by the Colorado Court of Appeals opinion in the Martinez case.   As described in earlier Spencer Fane posts, that appellate decision effectively elevated the protection of public health and the environment over the interests of mineral rights owners and developers.  The issue before the Colorado Supreme Court is whether the current statute dictates that the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) implement a statutorily directed balancing act without giving priority to any particular interest.

House Bill 1071 amends the COGCC’s organic statute and effectively gives priority to protection of the health, safety and welfare of the general public over the property rights of land and mineral rights owners. Some suggest that the bill violates the state’s constitutional protections for property owners and will trigger a never-ending flood of litigation.  The bill has passed out of the House and will be heard in the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Energy Committee on March 7.

Proposed Initiative #97, the title for which has just been set by the Colorado Ballot Title Setting Board, would extend setbacks for oil and natural gas wells from 500 feet from residences and 1,000 feet from high-occupancy buildings to 2,500 feet “from any occupied structure and any area designated for additional protection.”  The result?  Undoubtedly a very effective way to prohibit oil and gas development in major portions of the state.

Here is a link to the Initiative # 97 Documents maintained by the Colorado Legislature:


This post was drafted by John Watson, an attorney in the Denver, CO office of Spencer Fane LLP. For more information, visit spencerfane.com.