Aurora City Council won’t formally back statewide oil and gas local-control measure

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AURORA | A bill moving through the state Legislature that would turn oil and gas regulation over to local governments won’t have the official support of the Aurora City Council. 

The body didn’t have enough votes to formally support SB19-181. Four members voted to support the bill — Angela Lawson, Crystal Murillo, Allison Hiltz and Nicole Johnston — which was two votes shy of the number of votes required to back the bill.

Mayor Bob LeGare and councilwoman Marsha Berzins said it seems like the bill will pass with or without their support, and so it doesn’t matter what the council’s position on the bill is. Other members worried that the bill is being “rushed” through the Legislature, but Johnston noted that for years she’s been testifying to state lawmakers about local control. 

Additionally, Johnston said the bill is in Aurora’s interest of becoming a destination city and that major oil and gas development outside of the city’s control could hinder that goal.

The House Energy and Environment committee approved the bill late Monday on a party line vote. 

Last year, the City of Aurora brought in a total of $284,387 from oil and gas sector taxes, including local taxes and state and federal taxes allocated to the city, according to a city spokesperson. From 2014 through 2018, the City received over $1.7 million – $1 million of which was appropriated for affordable housing in the 2019 budget.

Johnston took an early interest in introducing a moratorium for oil and gas applications unless an operator agreement between the city and driller is met, but said she’s holding off to see how state lawmakers address the potential shift.