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Legislature Passes Controversial Oil & Gas Bill, Measure Heads To Governor's Desk

DENVER (CBS4) - The controversial bill that will overhaul the oil and gas industry in Colorado has passed the state Senate after lawmakers approved changes by the state House. The bill was passed on Wednesday morning and now heads to the governor's desk.

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The bill, called Protect Public Welfare Oil And Gas Operations, would let local governments regulate the location of wells. It would also mandate that state regulators emphasize public safety over promoting oil and gas production.

"Meaningful reforms to our oil and gas laws are long overdue," said Majority Leader Steve Fenberg in a statement. "This bill will ensure that public health and safety are the top priority in regulating oil and gas development in Colorado, and will empower local governments with the tools they need to address the concerns of their individual communities. I'm extremely proud of all the progress we made in both chambers to craft the best possible policy for Coloradans, and I look forward to Governor Polis signing this bill into law."

RELATED: Stories Of Loss And Anxiety Emerge In Colorado's Oil Debate

The bill is supported by Gov. Jared Polis and he is expected to sign it.

Conservation groups praised the bill's passage, while opponents said it threatened Colorado's economy.

"Coloradans can breathe easier today knowing that our state is finally on track to put the health and safety of workers and residents, and our environment ahead of oil and gas industry profits. Thank you to our leaders who heeded voters' clear message and delivered these overdue reforms," said Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado, in a statement.

Colorado plays a vital role in the nation for crude oil production, ranking fifth in the U.S. and sixth for natural gas. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association says the industry contributes $32 billion annually to the state's economy.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association's Dan Haley and the Colorado Petroleum Council's Ben Marter released the following statement, "SB 181 is the most comprehensive oil and natural gas legislation Colorado has seen in decades. While a few critical amendments were added that begin to address some of industry's concerns and provide a degree of certainty to our member companies, our industry remains firmly opposed to this bill because it threatens one of the pillars of Colorado's economy."

In November, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have kept new wells 2,500 feet from homes and schools, up from the current 500 feet.

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