House passes gas and water measure

A bill to boost the state’s legal case in lawsuits over gas and oil drilling won unanimous approval Tuesday in the state House of Representatives.

House Bill 1286 sets a higher legal standard for challenges to the state engineer’s decision to exempt many gas and oil wells from increased regulation of their water use.

The bill is the latest move in a yearslong dispute that began when Southwest Colorado ranchers sued the state for not protecting their water rights against gas drilling.

They won their first lawsuit in the state Supreme Court and sued again last summer, claiming the state engineer’s rules overturned much of their victory at the Supreme Court. Several cases are pending in water courts across the state.

The bill passed 65-0 Tuesday, with no debate at all in two opportunities Monday and Tuesday. It now goes to the state Senate.

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