Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Thornton) is at it again – marrying his disdain for jobs created by Colorado’s energy industry with his penchant for enriching trial
lawyers, one of which he just happens to be.
Salazar’s House Bill 1310 would hang a “SUE ME” sign on the back of Colorado oil and gas companies, decreeing by legislative fiat that energy exploration is responsible for earthquakes that occur in the Centennial State.
HB 1310 would make oil and gas operators subject to strict liability – also known as “liability without fault” – for earthquakes, inviting plaintiffs lawyers to troll for clients who claim their property was damaged by seismic activity. The only proof required is a determination that “oil and gas operations occurred within an area that has . . . experienced” frequent earthquakes.
As a result, oil and gas companies would be required to prove their innocence – to prove that they did not cause seismic activity. (Next, perhaps Salazar will suggest that energy companies be blamed for “climate change” and be held strictly liable for hailstorms, tornadoes, blizzards and drought.)
“Colorado courts have rejected applying this extreme strict liability standard even to activities such as selling gasoline in a paper cup or dumping highly caustic chemicals at a landfill,” explained Colorado Civil Justice League president Lee Mickus, who testified to the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee.
“Existing law already allows plaintiffs to bring claims for personal injury and property damage arising from oil and gas operations,” he continued. But under current law, plaintiffs must prove that oil and gas operations caused the damage; Salazar’s bill would reverse that burden of proof, stacking the deck for plaintiffs and their lawyers.
HB 1310 passed out of the committee on a 7-6 party-line vote with Democratic Reps. Janet Buckner (Aurora), Daneya Esgar (Pueblo), Susan Lontine (Denver) , Dianne Primavera (Broomfield), Sue Ryden (Aurora), Joann Ginal (Fort Collins) and chair Beth McCann (Denver) voting with Salazar, Republican Reps. J. Paul Brown (Durango), Steve Humphrey (Severance), Janik Joshi (Colorado Springs), Gordon Klingenschmitt (Colorado Springs), Lois Landgraf (Fountain) and Kim Ransom (Littleton) voted against the bill.