Colorado: Hickenlooper’s appointments to oil and gas commission spur concerns from West Slope residents

Environmental impacts from oil and gas drilling are at issue in new appointments to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. PHOTO FROM WIKIPEDIA VIA THE CREATIVE COMMONS.

Tug-of-war over oil and gas drilling will continue

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Among many other campaign promises and slogans, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper early in his term set a rather unrealistic goal of a 50 percent cut in the permitting time for new oil and gas wells.

Last week, Hickenlooper announced eight appointments to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, a board charged with overseeing responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas natural resources.

The commission is supposed to balance  efficient exploration and production of oil and gas resources and prevention of waste with protection of  public health, environment and mineral owners’ rights.

“Different voices and a united spirit of collaboration are key to the success of the commission,” Hickenlooper 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.”

“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. We will be watching closely and working hard to ensure that this new Commission upholds the Governor’s promise to the Colorado people.”

The new commission members replace members whose terms expired July 1, 2011. They must be confirmed by the Colorado Senate and will serve terms of four years, expiring July 1, 2015.

The state’s conservation community reacted cautiously to the announcement, with some West Slope residents expressing concern that the new appointments represent a tilt toward Front Range, pro-drilling interests.

“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,” said Moffat County landowner Wes Mcstay.  “I’m concerned that we’re losing some of that awareness with the new Commission.”

“My business depends on clean water, so I want to know that people creating the rules for oil and gas development have considered the impacts to outfitters like me,” said Bill Dvorak, who runs Bill Dvorak Kayak and Rafting Expeditions. “Colorado’s tourism industry and my business depend on our ability to protect our air and water, and for that we need a balanced and reasonable Oil and Gas Commission.”

“As a sportsman who has pushed for better wildlife habitat protection during oil and gas development, I am concerned that the proposed new Commission won’t have the balanced approach that the governor has called for,” said Ivan James.  “We sportsmen certainly wish the Commissioners well in their tasks, but we’ll be watching to see that the wildlife protections that we worked so hard for are not diluted.”

The new commission members are:

Mayor Tommy E. Holton of Fort Lupton
Holton will serve as a local government official and as a Republican. He has extensive land use experience and once served as Chairman of the Weld County Planning Commission. Holton currently serves on the Weld County Land Use Review Committee and is a past member of the Technical Advisory Committee in Weld County and the Weld County Fair Board. He was previously self-employed as an outside consultant for land use issues; owned a company called Advanced Insulation Systems; owned a company called Rocky Mountain Airparts; worked at Farley Machine as a welder and fabricator for oil field equipment and trucks; worked at Caribou Creek Mining Co.; and worked at B.C. Airmotive as a pilot. Holton earned a bachelor’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

John H. Benton of Littleton
Benton will serve as a member with substantial experience in the oil and gas industry and with a college degree in petroleum geology or petroleum engineering and as a Republican. He is vice president and general manager for the Rockies Division of Rex Energy Corp. in Denver. He previously worked as vice president for the Western Division of El Paso E&P Corp. in Denver; as asset manager for Whiting Oil and Gas Corp.; as CEO of Calver Resources Inc. in Calgary, Alberta; as chief engineer and later as asset manager for the South Region of ConocoPhillips Canada in Calgary, Alberta; as production manager for West Wyoming and West Texas and later as manager of acquisitions and dispositions for Westport Oil and Gas Co. in Denver; and as operations manager for Orbis Engineering in Denver. Benton earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Colorado School of Mines.

W. Perry Pearce of Denver
Pearce will serve as a member with substantial experience in the oil and gas industry and as a Democrat. He is manager of state government affairs for ConocoPhillips/Burlington Resources. He previously worked as an attorney with Montgomery & Andrews in Santa Fe, N.M.; as general counsel for the Oil Conservation Division and Energy and Minerals Department in New Mexico; and as an attorney with Bigbee, Stephenson, Carpenter & Crout in Santa Fe, N.M. Pearce earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of San Francisco and a juris doctorate from Hastings College of Law at the University of California.

Andrew Lawrence Spielman of Denver
Spielman will serve as a member with formal or substantial experience in environmental or wildlife protection and as a Democrat. He is an attorney at Hogan Lovells in Denver and has federal, state and local government experience with natural resources, land use and Western public lands law to assist energy developers, ski areas, water suppliers, ranchers, tribes and others with obtaining regulatory approvals and permits from governments across the United States. Spielman currently serves as Chairman of Colorado’s Regional Air Quality Council and served earlier in senior positions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., including acting Associate Director of the Office of Sustainable Ecosystems and Communities. He previously worked at the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget; in staff positions in the U.S. Senate; and with local governments in parks, open space, utilities and housing and economic development. Spielman earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a juris doctorate from Georgetown University.

Thomas L. Compton of Hesperus, reappointed
Compton will serve as a member actively engaged in agricultural production and also a royalty owner, west of the Continental Divide, and as a Republican. He is the owner and manager of Compton Cattle Co., a commercial beef cattle enterprise. Compton previously worked as adjunct faculty at Fort Lewis College; as a legislative aide to former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell; and as a professor of biology and chair of the Division of Natural Sciences at LeTourneau University in Texas. He is also vice president of the Colorado Rural Electric Board of Directors and serves on the LaPlata Open Space Conservancy Board and the Governor’s Task Force on Colorado Roadless Areas. Compton earned a bachelor’s degree from California State University at San Jose, a master’s degree from the University of Alaska and a doctorate from the University of Wyoming.

Richard D. Alward of Grand Junction, reappointed
Alward will to serve as a member with formal training or substantial experience in soil conservation or reclamation, west of the Continental Divide, and as a Democrat. He is a principal ecologist and environmental scientist at Aridlands Natural Resource Consulting in Grand Junction and works as an adjunct instructor of environmental science at Mesa State College. He previously worked as an ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey – Biological Resources Division in Moab, Utah; as associated director at Cedar Point Biological Station at the University of Nebraska; and as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Nebraska. Alward earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska and a doctorate from Colorado State University.

The governor also appointed Mike King, Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources, and Dr. Chris Urbina, Executive Director of the Department of Public Health and Environment, to the commission.

A ninth member of the commission, Dolly Ann “DeAnn” Craig of Denver, serves as a member with substantial experience in the oil and gas industry and a college degree in petroleum geology or petroleum engineering and as a Republican. Her term expires July 1, 2012.

2 Responses

  1. Well, at least the “Oil & Gas” industry is well represented. It will be interesting to watch just how these individuals serve the state. Will they be exceptional stewards of the land, the environment, the air we breath, or will they be like others in other states that allow oil & gas exploration on the East Coast? I might also add, that it makes no difference which party, the members belong to, when it comes to which priority’s come first. After the present “KABUKI” in Washington D.C., I wouldn’t be willing to bet the ranch on which outcome will win.

    • I hear you. What scared me was Hickenlooper’s initial pronouncment that he wants to cut permitting time by half. We have that on video. I hope he’s recognized that’s not a reasonable goal.

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