Energy policy — oil and gas: West slope conservationists worry that Governor Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission appointments lean too heavily towards those companies being regulated

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From the Washington Independent (David O. Williams):

“The new commission lacks a member who is intimately aware of Western Slope community impacts,” said Frank Smith of Western Colorado Congress. “We’re cautiously optimistic but concerned about the ability of the new COGCC to protect public health and Colorado air and water.”

Republican Fort Lupton Mayor Tommy Holton is a new appointee who replaces former Democratic Garfield County Commissioner Trési Houpt as the local government official on the board.

Other new commission members include Republican John Benton, a vice president and general manager for Rex Energy in Denver; Democrat W. Perry Pearce, manager of state government affairs for ConocoPhillips/Burlington Resources; and Democrat Andrew Lawrence Spielman, a natural resource attorney at Hogan Lovells in Denver.

Thomas Compton of Hesperus and Richard D. Alward of Grand Junction were both reappointed to the board that’s also comprised of Mike King, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, Dr. Chris Urbina, executive director of the Department of Public Health and Environment, and Republican petroleum engineer Dolly Ann “DeAnn” Craig.

“The new COGCC will have tough decisions to make, and some of these will highlight their allegiances and values,” Smith added. “COGCC will make big decisions related to drilling in and near communities and updating fracking [hydraulic fracturing] regulations. The poor economy led the previous COGCC to expedite drilling and, some may say, place less of an emphasis on understanding natural gas’s impacts to public health.”

Meanwhile, the first meeting of the new board is next week, according to Gene Sears writing for the Fort Lupton Press. From the article:

“Not much time to get ready, so I will be doing some studying over the weekend and make sure I’m up to speed,” [Fort Lupton Mayor Tommy Holton] said. “I was up to speed at one time when we were doing so much with the oil and gas, especially when they brought in the 318-A rule (The Greater Wattenberg Area special well location rule that governs the placement of wells in the Wattenberg field).

“Different voices and a united spirit of collaboration are key to the success of the commission,” Hickenlooper said in a release detailing the appointments. “We are confident this group will help serve the industry, land owners and the environment well as it navigates through issues that are important to both the state’s economy and protection of Colorado’s beautiful landscapes.”

It’s a vision Holton says he shares, bringing along his unique perspective from a lifetime of interaction with oil and gas development, starting at home. “From dealing on the farm with oil and gas, and then dealing with the county on oil and gas and then with the city, it is just something I am interested in. I think Weld County does need representation there, seeing as how 37 percent of the production in the state comes from Weld County. It just makes sense to have someone there,” Holton said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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