Legislative Update: And Just Like That – They’re Gone!

Legislators departed Denver (except for those holding post-session press conferences) shortly after the May 8 adjournment. Then began the 30-day waiting period for the Governor to act on the bills presented to him. Although many were signed before the end of the session, within the 10-day window following their arrival on the Governor’s desk, a surprising number remained awaiting the Governor’s final determination. There was little suspense on major legislation with a notable exception affecting local governments right of first refusal to purchase multi-family property which he vetoed, citing in part “unintended consequences.”

The Governor vetoed a total of ten bills (several on June 6), surpassing Governor Hickenlooper’s previous record of nine vetoes in 2018. In addition to the “right of first refusal” measure, the Governor vetoed bills addressing: deceptive ticket sales, clemency procedures, study cost of drug crimes, cure of open meetings violations, extension of credit by casinos, prohibition of employees receiving cash tips, inclusion of ag land in urban renewal areas, management of wolf reintroduction, vouchers for drivers’ education. Many of these were nuanced issues and a topical listing does not fully explain their content.

On his final day to take action, June 7, he signed HB23-1242, which was enacted to increase the use of produced water from oil and gas operations including the formation of a Produced Water Consortium that will, among other duties, recommend on or before November 1, 2024, any legislation or agency rules needed to remove barriers to the safe recycling and reuse of produced water in the state. The consortium will be managed within the Department of Natural Resources. This topic first grabbed CMA’s attention during the 2022 interim when a consultant advocated broader use of produced water for a variety of applications, and because mines also extract “produced water.”

A last-minute signature was added on June 6 to SB23-172, which redefined workplace discrimination or unfair employment practices to eliminate the requirement that such actions be “severe and pervasive” for conduct to constitute harassment. The bill also addresses non-disclosure agreements related to harassment.

Another bill signed late in the 30-day window was SB23-186, which directs the investigation of methane seeps in the Raton Basin and the water quality associated with those seeps including potential uses. This issue came to CMA’s water quality committee several years ago in connection with water quality concerns at CDPHE regarding sodium adsorption ratios impact on certain crops and cattle.

The Governor also signed SB23-274, transferring fee-setting for discharge and drinking water permits from the legislature to the Water Quality Control Commission, kicking off the process of stakeholder outreach to establish fees that must then be promulgated by regulation. The Commission must adopt fees that are effective January 1, 2026, although if the Commission rules allow for phase-in the fees, fee-payers may be required to pay the new fees prior to that date. Stakeholder meetings will commence July 11.

At the top of CMA’s watch list was HB23-1294, which established an Ozone Air Quality Interim Committee, along with making changes to the air permitting process. The Committee is being formed and will meet up to six times in the interim period; committee staff has begun assembling the list of interested parties for notification of meetings. As originally introduced, HB23-1294 contained highly problematic provisions which may creep back into recommendations from the interim committee, hence our close attention.

Shortly after the Governor signed a package of bills (SB23-016, SB23-285, HB23-1210) authorizing the newly-named Carbon and Energy Management Commission (formerly known as COGCC) to seek primacy for Class VI injection wells for CO2 injection, the Department of Energy announced a $32.6 million grant to Colorado School of Mines, Carbon America, and the Los Alamos National Lab to advance the development of a potential carbon storage hub for the Pueblo, Colorado area. This is part of a bigger plan for Colorado to play a major role in carbon capture, storage, and utilization (CCUS).

The Colorado River Drought Task Force (SB23-295) was signed into law May 20, and must hold its first meeting no later than July 31. A facilitator for the group must be hired by July 15 with up to 12 meetings authorized to provide recommendations for programs to assist Colorado in addressing drought in the Colorado river basin and the state’s interstate commitments related to the Colorado river and its tributaries. CMA will closely monitor these meetings because of the water rights held by our members throughout the basin.

In anticipation of the Sackett decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, CDPHE provided a draft enforcement policy for addressing materials deposited in waters of the state, including “gap waters” that will no longer be covered by the federal Clean Water Act. CMA anticipates that when the Joint Budget Committee meets on June 20, it will receive a request for supplemental funding from the department to address Sackett-related program expenses.

Other interim and year-round committees are still appointing members and setting their agendas following a session where legislators and staff worked 6-7 days per week. More details will be forthcoming in a week or two.

On June 10, CDPHE will host a public listening session concerning adoption of GHG fees as required by HB 21-1266 (the environmental justice bill). The fees will fund Air Pollution Control Division programs to improve and protect air quality in Colorado. The department has stated that the Division may also raise existing emission fees for criteria pollutants (NOx, VOC, CO, PM, SO2) and hazardous air pollutants.

During a June 7 Water Quality Roadmap Zoom meeting, the Water Quality Control Division outlined its plans for developing TMDLs from the present to 2032. Likely priority will be given to E-coli, sediments, selenium, temperature, and nutrients currently on the 303 (d) list.

Happy Summer!

Dianna Orf
CMA Lobbyist