- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

DENVER (AP) - Republicans in Colorado’s Senate advanced a pro-fracking measure Friday that makes a statement in advance of a long-awaited report on new limits on the oil and gas industry.

The Senate bill would penalize local governments that limit drilling procedures, especially hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

When a government makes a mineral owner’s underground property less valuable, the government should pay the owner, Republicans said. “People have a right to be compensated,” said Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley.

Democrats opposed the measure, which faces almost certain defeat in the Democratic House. They argued that if mineral owners are owed money for fracking bans, then surface property owners should be owed money, too, if drilling near their homes diminishes property value.

“It’s a dangerous place,” said Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver.

Drilling has been the elephant in the room this session, with lawmakers avoiding the divisive topic until the release next week of a task force report on the dilemma.

The task force was set up to broker compromise between the oil and gas industry and critics who say cities and counties should be free to place strict limits on drilling practices

For the last few years, lawmakers have tried and failed to agree on giving local communities more say in drilling regulations. Democrats expressed optimism Friday that the task force would bring suggestions to make both sides happy.

“Hopefully, the task force will come up with something real,” said Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who has sided with the energy industry against local fracking bans, assembled the group last year to avoid ballot measures on the question. The task force submits recommendations to lawmakers Feb. 27.

The GOP penalty bill won preliminary approval Friday on a partisan voice vote. One more formal vote is required next week before the measure moves to the House, which has repeatedly rejected similar measures in the past.

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Kristen Wyatt can be reached at https://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

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Online:

Senate Bill 93: https://bit.ly/1AYBPWw


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