DENVER — A recently-announced bill that would drastically rewrite oil and gas regulations for Colorado has some up in arms over what they say are maneuvers by the bill’s sponsors to rush the bill through without hearing from all sides.
“My point on the floor wasn’t to make accusations against anyone,” said Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Douglas County. “Just that there was confusion and frustration because of the short time frame.”
Holbert was referring to Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder taking offense to Holbert’s comments about Senate Bill 19-181 during personal time on the Senate floor Monday.
Holbert asked Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo to consider rescheduling the committee hearing for the “Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations,” bill to allow both sides more time to vet the bill that would make sweeping changes to oil and gas regulation in Colorado.
“I pointed to you as where the point of balance exists,” Holbert said in part in his remarks about Garcia, who he said is fair and reasonable. “I need to ask you to be that even hand today.”
Holbert said the legislation that was introduced Friday evening and will appear before the Senate Transportation and Energy committee at 2 p.m., Tuesday in Senate Committee Room 357, is being rushed through for no good reason.
“It will drive significant support and opposition from the people of Colorado,” Holbert said on the Senate floor.
Holbert took exception to — what he was told was — the opposition unable to secure a place to rally at the capitol before the hearing, while supporters — he said he was told — had space in the foyer.
“It seems that proponents may have known in advance what opponents did not,” Holbert said. “This is a question of process not policy. We in the minority know that we do not have the votes, but the process, the rules, the constitution, the statute, gives us voice. And those of us who we represent who stand in opposition to that bill, deserve to have their voice heard.”
Because of that, Holbert asked Garcia to reschedule the hearing date.
There had been no changes as of press time.
Fenberg was quick to react, accusing Holbert of trying to impugn Fenberg’s character and motivations.
Holbert never mentioned anyone’s name in his remarks.
“We heard things that were just not true at the microphone by a colleague,” Fenberg said in part.
Fenberg then went on to say members of the Republican caucus knew about the bill, and more specifically about the timeline for the bill’s introduction and committee schedule.
“I also talked to members of the industry about this bill,” Fenberg said. “The timeline was not a mystery, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. To state that the bill was introduced in a way that was meant to not allow opponents to have their voice heard is just not true.”
However, Fenberg’s statements seem to contradict his actions on multiple occasions.
In a Tweet from his account that he pinned to the top of his feed, Fenberg first contradicts himself in a response to Tracee Bentley, Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director.
Bentley said in a Tweet that in her 15 years of working with the state government, there has always been a thorough stakeholder process.
“We are deeply disappointed that House and Senate leadership do not appear to value the stakeholder process nor the importance of having all stakeholders at the table on one of the most consequential proposals in Colorado History,” Bentley’s Tweet read.
Fenberg responded: “News flash. Special interests don’t write bills, legislators do. I understand it might be difficult for the industry to no longer be able to write their own laws. But that’s not how things work in Colorado anymore.”
Yet, in emails obtained by Complete Colorado, it appears Fenberg’s Tweet also contradicts meetings set up by his advisor Mindy Miller for Fenberg with members of the Colorado Education Association to discuss bills they are working on with Senate Democrats.
Fenberg did not immediately return a request for comment from Complete Colorado.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association did receive word while Holbert was on the floor speaking that they received a permit to rally from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday on the west steps of the Capitol.
Holbert said, however, that doesn’t change his concern over how fast the bill is being pushed through.
“To force this through two business days after it was introduced, it’s just not necessary,” Holbert said. “With the tens of thousands of people in Colorado who will be affected directly by this bill who work in the oil and gas industry, and for the millions of us who own real estate here, this bill deserves a thorough vetting, a careful process. There is no reason for the majority to push this through committee.”
Holbert also took exception to Fenberg’s claim that members of the Republican caucus were aware of the bill. He said knowing a bill is coming and what’s in the bill are two different things.
“It is not completely transparent to say that members of my caucus knew what was going to be in this bill,” Holbert said.
Holbert said the bill in general is a slap in the face to voters who said No to Proposition 112 last November, which would have placed a de-facto ban on new oil and gas drilling in Colorado.
“I think President Garcia and Majority Leader Fenberg would be wise to consider the opinion of the majority of the voters,” Holbert said.