Drilling-tax proposal’s sponsor changes course

DENVER – A Republican leader has run out of time in his bid to punish local governments that delay gas and oil drilling.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, originally wanted to withhold severance tax money for any city or county that gets in the way of drilling.

But that idea didn’t fly with Democrats and many Republicans on his committee, including Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio. Sonnenberg made several attempts to narrow his bill, but to no avail.

On Monday, he turned the bill into a study of state and local jurisdiction of gas and oil drilling and removed all potential punishments for local governments.

Gov. John Hickenlooper already appointed a task force this year to study whether local governments or the state has control over drilling, but the task force recommended no major changes.

Brown liked the new version of Sonnenberg’s bill, House Bill 1356.

“I think this is very important, so everyone knows exactly where we stand. So I’m very in favor of this study,” Brown said.

The rewritten bill passed 7-5.

However, it was a short-lived victory. Under the Legislature’s rules, there is not enough time left in the annual session to pass the bill through the House and Senate. The session ends no later than midnight Wednesday.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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