Fulfilling a campaign promise to rein in oil and natural gas development, Colorado’s new Democrat governor in April signed into law a measure that fundamentally changes the way the state regulates the industry.

The new law lays the groundwork for months of rulemaking hearings that will ultimately redefine how the state’s primary oil and gas regulatory agency does its work. Until now, the charter of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission directed it to manage orderly development, arbitrate rule of capture and correlative right disputes, and provide balance between energy development and protecting human health and the environment.

spwm jpolisFollowing last year’s defeat of litigation that would have required COGCC to place health and the environment considerations above, rather than balanced with mineral development, lawmakers pushed through SB 181 in a matter of weeks. The November elections saw Colorado Democrats take control of both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion.

The new law not only redefines the agency’s mission as giving health and the environment issues primary consideration, but it also reduces to one from three the number of COGCC commissioners with any oil and gas expertise.

The new law was called “the most comprehensive oil and gas legislation Colorado has seen,” by Dan Haley, president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.

During a bill signing ceremony in Denver, Gov. Jared Polis said he believed the new law would end the long oil and gas wars that have pitted the industry against a variety of activist groups and resulted in at least 15 new regulations that directly affect how oil and gas is developed and produced.