Dems push to change law after Firestone explosion

House Democrats introduced a bill this morning to require oil and gas companies to turn that information over to state and local agencies.

Coloradans could get a map for every oil and gas pipeline in the state if a last-minute bill becomes law, although it faces a tough obstacle in the Republican-controlled state senate.

Democrats introduced House Bill 1372 Friday morning and passed it out of committee on a party line vote Friday afternoon.

The bill would require oil and gas companies to give the “location of each flow line, gathering pipeline, and transmission pipeline installed, owned or operated by the operator to the director of the [Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission] and each local government within whose jurisdiction the subsurface is located.”

The commission would then turn that data into an online, searchable database.

The bill comes just days after investigators announced that a deadly April 17 home explosion in Firestone was caused by gas seeping from a cut pipeline. Investigators theorized that someone cut the line during the home’s construction in 2015.

Anadarko wasn’t using the well connected to that line in 2015, but the company turned it back on January 28, 2017. Odorless gas built up inside the home, and investigators said it exploded killing two men and seriously injuring a woman.

“The consequences of not knowing exactly what was going on this time were fatal,” Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont) said.

Representatives from Colorado’s oil and gas industry agreed with Singer’s sentiment, but they disagreed about whether this bill was the solution.

“We believe this would lock us into an inappropriate solution,”  Colorado Oil and Gas Association President Dan Haley said.

At least three different agencies have oversight authority over Colorado gas lines. Haley and Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley both asked lawmakers to get those groups on the same page before starting the map making process.

Haley also suggested holding off until after Colorado’s oil and gas companies have finished the work given to them in a notice Tuesday from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

The notice directs oil and gas companies throughout the state to inspect their flowlines and provide the commission with GPS coordinates for each line.

But it’s a onetime snapshot of the pipelines, and it doesn’t ask for a public map.

“What we are going to have is a data dump,” Rep. Mike Foote (D-Boulder County) said.

He doesn’t think an Excel spreadsheet filled with numbers would be helpful to a Coloradan looking to buy a house.

“We want to go a little farther so members of the public can see this,” Foote said.

And he’s not sure the oil and gas commission has the authority to make a public map without this bill.

The testiest moment in Friday’s hearing came when Rep. Adrienne Benavidez (D-Adams County) repeatedly asked Haley and Bentley for a specific objection to giving COGCC the authority to create a map.

“All this does is set this in place. Rules will not come about overnight .. “ Benavidez said. “I’m missing what’s so difficult in here that you can’t figure out in the next nine months.”

The bill doesn’t set any deadlines for when companies would have to provide their pipeline data, and it gives more time to companies that bought existing pipelines.

“We prefer the process of going through the COGCC,” Haley said.

Rep. Cole Wist (R- Centennial) agreed.

“While I don’t disagree with intent of the bill,” Wist said. “I guess my disagreement is with the execution, the timing and letting the [notice to operators] run its course.”

The problem Democrats see with waiting is they say their constituents are scared now.

“Right now people have no way of knowing what’s near their home,” Benavidez said. “This provides more transparency for everyone involved."

The bill is likely to get a vote in the House early next week, but with the end of the session looming it’s unclear whether it has time to work its way through the Republican controlled Senate. 

RELATED: Colorado has 45,000 miles of pipelines

RELATED: Uncapped, abandoned gas line caused Firestone home explosion

RELATED: Hickenlooper calls for statewide review of existing oil and gas operations

RELATED: Firestone explosion victims identified

RELATED: Colorado is asked to trust that the energy industry can find and fix its own problems

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