Houpt will seek re-election in Garfield County

An advocate for regulatory reform of the energy industry plans to seek re-election next year as Garfield County commissioner, partly with the goal of remaining eligible to continue serving on the state panel that oversees the oil and gas industry.

Tresi Houpt said the decision to run for a third, four-year term was “not difficult.”

“I think we’re in the middle of some very important policy issues in this county, and I also would like to continue with my work with the oil and gas commission until we have all of the rules running,” Houpt said.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved sweeping and controversial new regulations that took effect earlier this year, and it is continuing work on additional rules rewrites.

Gov. Bill Ritter pushed for the regulatory changes and appointed Houpt, a fellow Democrat, to the commission to fill an opening reserved for a local government official.

Republican Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said he has heard of several people who privately expressed interest in challenging Houpt for her county seat.

The race is likely to attract considerable independent campaign spending by entities outside the county.

The two commissioner races in the county last year attracted tens of thousands of dollars in outside spending, much of it related to the energy industry.

Pro-industry spending favored Martin and fellow Republican Mike Samson, who also won his race. Their Democratic challengers benefited from spending by environmentally oriented groups.

From an energy regulatory perspective, the stakes are even higher in Houpt’s race.

“I do expect to be in the cross hairs, probably more so because of my involvement in the oil and gas commission and the new rule making,” she said.

State Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, who also has favored oil and gas regulatory reforms, said she hopes Houpt wins re-election in spite of however much outside money is spent to oppose her.

“I think it would be good for Garfield County if we could take advantage of her expertise and her background. She’s a really dedicated public servant,” Curry said.

Martin said he’s not surprised Houpt wants to continue as a commissioner.

“She loves it. She does what she feels is right, and she’s committed to getting her message out. All the more power to her,” he said.

Houpt said the new state rules provide opportunities for increased involvement by local governments in addressing local health, safety and environmental impacts of drilling.

“I’d like to make sure that we as a county are engaged in those opportunities and make sure that we grow our regulations to work well with the new state regulations,” she said.


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