Colorado lawmakers want to jack up ridiculously low oil-spill fines
We told you last week about the underground leak of a mysterious “natural-gas liquid” near a gas-processing plant along a creek in western Colorado. The spill was discovered on March 8, and has been spilling ever since, but plant owner Williams Corp. still doesn’t know for sure where it’s coming from.
Meanwhile, some Colorado lawmakers are expressing dismay that state fines for such spills have been capped at $10,000 for the past half century unless the spills are deemed to have “significant adverse impact” on public health or the environment.
A Lafayette lawmaker says Colorado’s system of levying fines against oil and gas companies for environmental disasters like the spill this month near Parachute Creek is totally out of whack with other states and needs to be brought “into this century.”
Sponsored in the state House by Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, and in the Senate by Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, House Bill 1267 [PDF] would increase the maximum daily fine for violators of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) regulations to $15,000 and repeal the cap on maximum total fines.
Current law dating to the 1950s sets the daily fine limit at $1,000 and caps maximum fines at $10,000, which Foote argues doesn’t adequately punish polluters and lags far behind other major oil and gas producing states. His bill passed out of the House Transportation & Energy Committee on an 8-5 party-line vote last week and was sent to the Finance Committee.
“In the Texas legislature there’s a proposal to increase [fines] to $200,000 per violation, per day, with no cap,” Foote told the committee last week, “and apparently there’s a trade association that’s in favor of that bill.”
That’s all good and well, but if energy companies can’t find the money for proper maintenance, where would the poor sods find the money to pay oil-spill fines?
Oh, right. Tremendous profits.