Moffat officials react to oil and gas appointments |

Moffat officials react to oil and gas appointments

Ben McCanna

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Friday six new appointees to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

And, at least one local government official contends the governor got it right.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said he was "impressed" by the picks.

"It's like it's not about party affiliation," Mathers said. "(Hickenlooper) picked the people who were good for the job, not good for his party."

If Hickenlooper's selections are confirmed, the nine-member commission will contain five Democrats and four Republicans.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission promotes responsible development of the state's oil and gas resources, according to a news release from the governor's office.

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The group seeks to balance exploration and production of natural resources with protections for public health, the environment and owners of mineral rights.

The newly appointed members are:

• Tommy Holton, Republican mayor of Fort Lupton, who has a background in land use planning and has worked in the oil and coal industries.

• John Benton, a Republican from Littleton, who has a background in the oil and gas industry and holds a degree in petroleum geology and petroleum engineering.

• W. Perry Pearce, a Democrat from Denver, who has a background in the oil and gas industry, which includes a management position with ConocoPhillps/Burlington Resources.

• Andrew Spielman, a Democrat from Denver, who has a background in environmental protection.

• Mike King, a Democrat, who currently serves as executive director of the Department of Natural Resources.

•Dr. Chris Urbina, a Democrat, who serves as executive director of the Department of Public Health and Environment.

Returning members of the commission are Thomas Compton, of Hesperus, Richard Alward, of Grand Junction, and Dolly Ann Craig, of Denver.

Hickenlooper, in a news release, said the commission is a good mix of people and backgrounds.

"Different voices and a united spirit of collaboration are key to the success of the commission," the first-year governor said. "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."

Mathers said he was somewhat disappointed there weren't more appointees from the Western Slope to the commission, but ultimately the governor's decision makes sense.

"I was a little bit (disappointed)," Mathers said. "But, you have to understand this is a big area, the state.

"When you talk about oil and gas, we have a little play starting here (in Moffat County). Up north of Denver, they've had big plays already."

On Friday, the Colorado Environmental Coalition released a statement regarding the governor's appointments.

"Gov. Hickenlooper has repeatedly said he would 'strike the right balance' in overseeing the oil and gas industry," said Elise Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. "The jury is still very much out as to whether this set of appointments meets that important standard, or whether instead the balance has shifted away from protecting Colorado's air, water, wildlife and communities from the impacts of drilling."

Moffat County resident Wes McStay said the new commission may have lost some of its balance.

"As a rancher on the West Slope, I think we need an oil and gas commission that is aware of the particular challenges we face in protecting our land and water," he said. "I'm concerned that we're losing some of that awareness with the new commission."

Mathers, however, thinks the balance has shifted in favor of Northwest Colorado. The last commission, which was appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter, was too restrictive, he said.

"(Ritter's) philosophy was 'don't drill,'" Mathers said. "He came in, he was very green, and he didn't want any oil and gas activity in the country. And by doing that, wow, it really hurt the economy of the state and the local (economy)."

The new commission could potentially change the economic landscape of Moffat County, Mathers said.

"I think you're going to see the benefits of oil and gas here," he said. "It's going to create jobs. It's going to create a bigger tax income for the county and the city.

"You're going to see it make a big difference here."

While Mathers is pleased with Hickenlooper's take on the oil and gas commission, he said the Public Utilities Commission is still of great concern.

"I think (Hickenlooper) did a good job with this," Mathers said of the oil and gas commission. "Now I'd really like to see him do the same kind of good job with the PUC."

The PUC, Mathers said, is the body responsible for Colorado House Bill 10-1365, which requires Front Range coal-fired plants to switch to natural gas.

"That PUC, to me, were a bunch of dough heads," he said. "I think quite a few people would agree with me on that."

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