Neslin trying to retain oil, gas job

The director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is a finalist for his own job.

David Neslin is in the running along with petroleum engineer John Benton, vice president and Rockies regional manager for Englewood-based Rex Energy, and Robert McDonald, a natural resources consultant in Fort Collins.

Neslin is among numerous heads of state agencies who were told they would have to reapply for their jobs under the administration of new Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Neslin, a lawyer, has headed the oil and gas commission for more than three years. He oversaw the sweeping and controversial rewrite of the agency’s rules and their subsequent implementation. Those rules seek to better protect the public and environment.

“During my tenure, the Commission has overseen record levels of oil and gas production, development, and permitting, substantially reduced average permitting times, greatly increased site inspections and environmental remediations, adopted electronic forms to increase efficiency, reorganized and expanded our staff, and successfully completed the most comprehensive updating of our regulations in more than a decade,” he said in his job application letter.

Neither Neslin nor Benton could be reached for comment.

Benton, a petroleum engineer, previously has served as vice president of El Paso E&P’s Western Division, asset manager of Whiting Oil and Gas Co., and chief engineer and asset manager for ConocoPhillips Canada, among other positions.

“My objective is to use my years of experience to help develop the state’s oil and gas resources while protecting its environment and quality of life for all residents,” he wrote.

McDonald provides environmental, regulatory and other consulting services to utilities, the energy industry, federal agencies and others. He has worked in management for environmental engineering companies and previously worked for the Bureau of Land Management and the Army Corps of Engineers, helping establish some of their early environmental policies and regulations.

Speaking in an interview about his interest in Neslin’s job, he said, “I thought I had a real diverse amount of experience I could bring to that position if they’re looking for a new direction.”

Leslie Robinson of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance said she thinks Neslin could be a better watchdog for people and the environment.

“But saying that, I would certainly like to look at the other two people who are up for the job to see what kind of background they have. I certainly don’t want somebody who would favor industry because I just think the rules already favor them in a lot of ways.”

Said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, “Western Colorado lost the most jobs during Colorado’s economic downturn. And reinforcing job creation has been a top priority for the governor since day one. As a result, it’s likely the administration will go with the candidate best able to create energy jobs, while also protecting human health and the environment.”


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