State energy director praises local mineral rights advocacy group | CraigDailyPress.com

State energy director praises local mineral rights advocacy group

Hayden’s Jody Camilletti among those seeking seat on Hickenlooper’s new oil and gas task force

Tom Ross

Jody Camilletti

— Jody Camilletti, of Hayden, confirmed Friday that she is among the 200 people who have submitted letters of application for 18 remaining seats on Gov. John Hickenlooper's new task force on energy development issues.

Camilletti was present at Saddleback Ranch near Milner on Thursday night when Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates those industries in the state, said it is likely to take another two weeks before selections for the task force are final.

"The governor recognizes how important it is for this task force to work well together and has taken direct interest in naming these people," Lepore told an audience of about 100, who were invited to a barbecue by Citizens Supporting Property Rights.

Camilletti said her motivations for seeking a spot on the task force are similar to those that led to a role in the creation of CSPR, which advocates for the interests of people who own subsurface mineral rights.

"We feel like the stakeholders need a voice so that it's not so one-sided," Camilletti said. "That's truly the thought behind it. All stakeholders need to be heard."

The task force will be charged with making recommendations to state government on legislation, policy and regulation of energy exploration, Lepore said. It will comprise six people each from the industry, local governments and environmental/citizens groups.

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Camilletti, a rancher who worked for 30 years at The Industrial Company in Steamboat Springs before she was laid off three years ago, said the role that oil and gas royalties can play in sustaining family farms and ranches in Colorado also is significant in her mind.

"I think I bring the landowner, mineral owner, multigenerational view to it from someone who is trying to maintain an ag lifestyle," she said. "Ag is a hard thing to sustain these days — more and more goods are produced in other countries, from foodstuff to clothing. There's very few of us that feed the world. We want to keep that going."

Lepore said the governor is involved directly in the selection of the remaining 18 openings on the task force. Two co-chairpersons already have been selected for the group. They are Randy Cleveland, chief executive of a subsidiary of Exxon, XTO Energy, which is active in La Plata County; and La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, who also is associated with the environmental group Earthworks.

Lepore praised Citizens Supporting Property Rights this week.

"I'm so happy to see mineral rights owners participating in this discussion," he said. "Granted, you have a vested interest (as mineral rights owners who could be in a position to collect royalties from energy companies), but you have an important voice and are an important part of this conversation. We are very happy to see you are still thriving and growing."

Lepore reminded his audience that the creation of the task force was the result of a bargain struck between Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who was preparing to have certified and placed on the November ballot, initiatives for two new amendments to the state Constitution that would have created new regulations for energy exploration related issues such as fracking.

Early this month, Polis announced that he would withdraw his ballot initiatives in exchange for the creation of the task force. In a written statement, he explained that in 2011, he became involved in constituent concerns that oil well fracking rigs were about to be placed near an elementary school in Erie. As a result of his involvement, Polis said he promised his constituents that he would push for regulations to protect them and "would not give up the fight."

"I believe today’s announcement is a victory for the people of Colorado and the movement to enact sensible fracking regulations," Polis said in early August. "I know for many, today’s announcement will not go far enough, but I believe it’s just the beginning of next chapter."

A member of the audience at Saddleback Ranch asked Lepore if the formation of the task force isn't really a delay tactic and if Polis won't be back with renewed constitutional ballot initiatives in another election cycle.

Lepore said he can't offer assurances about what Rep. Polis might do in the future, but he added that he thinks the task force can be productive.

"I don't think it's a delay tactic. I'll say that strongly," Lepore said. "It was important not to have the ballot initiatives go forward. I can't think of a worse way to regulate a complex industry than through a constitutional amendment. But I think a thoughtful group of people with the right frame and focus can maybe come together with some good ideas."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1