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New Oil And Gas Commission Has Significant Industry And Government Representation

Jim Hill
A drill site in Frederick abuts a residential neighborhood, August 2013. The growth of drilling near Front Range population centers has prompted bans and calls for more local control of drilling.

Governor John Hickenlooper announced the 19 members of a task force whose goal is to address some of the recent controversy around energy development in the state.

The task force will examine land use issues and what role local governments have in regulating oil and gas activities within their boundaries. The creation of a task force is part of an agreement struck by the governor in order to avoid a citizen vote on oil and gas related ballot initiatives during the November 2014 election.  The governor and many others were concerned that passage of the ballot initiatives could have extremely negative consequences for the state.

The task force's recommendations will ideally be turned into legislation that will help clarify the authority of local communities over oil and gas operations. While county and town governments do have some authority over oil and gas siting, the degree of that control is up for debate. Recently, towns that have sought to ban hydraulic fracturing within their borders have been rebuffed by the courts.

The 19-member task force has just one representative from an environmental nonprofit, although it contains citizens who have fought fracking, local government officials who support strict regulations on energy development, and a lawyer who has helped localities craft such regulations.

Sara Barwinski is one such representative; she is a homeowner who has had oil and gas drilling on her land. Barwinski told Colorado Public Radio that she will keep an open mind during her task force term.

"If we can go in and just be honest about our own issues and concerns and hopes, but also be respectful and not see people through a stereotypical lens, I think we will do a lot better," she said.

The task force contains five industry representatives, including two from the largest drilling companies operating in Colorado, Anadarko and Noble Energy.

Over 250 individuals submitted their names for the task force; a list of those names was compiled by the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

The announcement of the task force drew praise from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

“I’m glad that we will have the opportunity to have a substantive discussion about regulation of the oil and gas industry in Colorado and the roles of various jurisdictions,” Tisha Schuller, president and CEO of the Association, told the Colorado Independent.

Those in the environmental arena were more cautious with their words.

"Our hope is that the Governor’s Task Force will agree on strong proposals to manage an oil and gas boom that will change the face of Colorado if we are not careful. Colorado is a fantastic place to live and raise a family; we cannot let this oil boom derail the Colorado dream and unique quality of life," Pete Maysmith, executive director of the group Conservation Colorado, said in a statement.

Task Force Members

  • Sara Barwinski, member of community group, Weld Air and Water
  • Bernie Buescher, former Colorado Secretary of State
  • Peter Dea, president & CEO, Cirque Resources LP
  • Jim Fitzgerald, rancher, educator, activist
  • Russ George, former Speaker of the House and former exec. director of Department of Natural Resources
  • Jon Goldin-Dubois, president, Western Resources Advocates
  • Brad Holly, vice president of operations (Rocky Mountain Region), Anadarko
  • Dan Kelly, vice president of Wattenberg Business Unit, Noble Energy
  • Rebecca Kourlis, retired justice of the Colorado Supreme Court; executive director, Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System
  • Steve Moreno, Clerk and Recorder, Weld County
  • Perry Pearce, manager of state government affairs (Rocky Mountain Region), ConocoPhillips
  • Kent Peppler, president, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, farmer
  • Pat Quinn, former mayor, Broomfield
  • Bruce Rau, vice chairman/treasurer, Colorado Association of Home Builders
  • Jeff Robbins, attorney, Goldman Robbins & Nicholson
  • Matt Sura, attorney, Law Office of Matthew Sura
  • Will Toor, former Boulder mayor and Boulder County Commissioner
  • Elbra Wedgeworth, chief government & community relations officer, Denver Health
  • Scot Woodall, president & CEO, Bill Barrett Corporation

Stephanie Paige Ogburn has been reporting from Colorado for more than five years, primarily from the Western Slope.
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