Longmont’s City Council members voted 5-1 on Tuesday night to support a proposed state law that would give Colorado’s local governments more land-use control over the siting of oil and gas operations within their boundaries.
A council delegation plans to journey to Denver to share its endorsement of Sen. Matt Jones’ Senate Bill 18-048 during a Monday afternoon Senate committee’s hearing on the measure.
Jones’ bill, among its other provisions, would specify that any Colorado city council, town board or board of county commissioners could “plan, zone and refuse to allow oil and gas operations,” in order “to protect the public safety, health and welfare of the citizens of the jurisdiction governed by the local government.”
Councilwoman Marcia Martin, who said she plans to attend the hearing, said the bill would give cities such as Longmont the kind of local control over oil and gas operations that they now already have about the location of “any other sticky, smelly, poisonous businesses.”
Councilwoman Bonnie Finley, who cast the council’s only dissenting vote, said she did so because she thought “there are some technical problems with that particular bill.”
Jones, a Louisville Democrat whose eastern Boulder County Senate District 17 includes Longmont, has been posting invitations on social media and encouraging people in emails to attend Monday’s hearing and testify in support of his bill.
“I need your voice to convince a senate committee that they should approve the Protect Act that enables cities and counties to plan, zone, and if they choose, refuse to allow oil and gas drilling and fracking, just like they can for any other activity,” Jones wrote in one email.
“The more people who show up, the better chance this has of passing through committee and on to a vote in the State House and Senate. No city or county should be forced to allow drilling and fracking operations to set up shop across the street from homes and schools.”
Jones said the Boulder County commissioners’ staff has informed him that Commissioner Elise Jones intends to testify for the bill on the county’s behalf.
Martin said Senate Republican leadership had assigned Jones’ bill to a “kill committee,” where it’s expected to die, but that she intends to testify at the hearing anyway.
Mayor Brian Bagley and Councilwomen Joan Peck and Polly Christensen also are expected to attend the hearing.
Getting the bill through the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee — where Republicans hold a 3-2 majority — will be a battle, Jones acknowledged in a Monday afternoon interview.
He said he’s also expecting heavy opposition from oil and gas industry interests, something he said typically occurs whenever someone proposes a measure that would set stricter restrictions on the industry.
“When you introduce one of these bills, you take on 50 lobbyists,” he said. “It’s uphill, but it’s the right thing to do.”
The Senate committee is chaired by Sen. Vicki Marble, a Fort Collins-area Republican whose district extends through southwest Weld County, including the Weld County portion of Longmont, into Broomfield. One of the panel’s two Democratic members is Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder.
If Jones’ bill were to clear one or more Senate committee hurdles and get the support of a majority of senators in floor votes on the measure, it would advance to the House and be carried there by Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, whose eastern Boulder County House District 12 also extends into part of Longmont.