Colorado lawmakers pass dramatic drilling rule changes despite strong Western Slope opposition

DENVER (AP) - Colorado's Senate is sending to the governor's desk a bill to dramatically change how the state regulates its $32 billion oil and gas industry.

Senators passed the bill on Wednesday on a 19-16 party-line vote, with majority Democrats supporting it.

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign it.

The legislation would make the protection of public health and safety and the environment the top priorities of state regulators. It also would grant local governments new authority over where wells can be drilled.

Currently, regulators' top priority is encouraging production, and only the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state's regulatory body, can approve well locations.

Minority Republicans in both legislative chambers and the industry mounted fierce challenges to the bill, which they claimed could jeopardize thousands of jobs and reduce tax revenues.

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