Ritter appointee’s job is to cut permit lag time

The man who sums up his job as finding jobs for other Coloradans is working with state regulators and the industry to try to reduce permitting times for oil and gas operations.

Don Marostica, a former state lawmaker who was appointed to his new post by Gov. Bill Ritter in August, said there is too much lag time between permit applications and approval of drilling-related activity that can employ people.

“It’s a job situation. What I’ve told the permit guys is that it’s just unacceptable how long it’s taking,” Marostica said.

He said he’s awaiting more information about the problem from some of the state’s biggest oil and gas producers. He then plans to meet with the industry and Dave Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

The industry had predicted new state oil and gas rules that Ritter championed would slow permit processing and make it more expensive. Susan Alvillar, spokeswoman for Williams Production, said that has proven true.

“We are not casting blame,” she said. “We are saying that this is the process that we all knew we would have to go through.”

She said it recently took 100 days to get approval for a pad for 15 wells, whereas the process used to take 60 to 70 days.

Marostica said he’s discussed the problem with Ritter.

“He hired me to get people back to work in Colorado, so this is just one issue that I can help by doing some things that help the oil and gas industry,” Marostica said.

Neslin said reducing permit processing times has been a goal for his agency, and it has been adding staff and taking other measures to accomplish it. But he said much of the recent problem is not because of the new rules that started taking effect April 1. Instead, it’s the result of a backlog created by the 1,500 permit applications companies filed in March in order to have them processed under the old rules.

He said understaffing also resulted in slow permitting times for the last couple of years, but the agency has begun to turn things around in the last few months.

“We are committed to being timely and efficient in our permitting process. At the same time, we have to act responsibly and ensure that the public and environment are protected. We think we can do both,” Neslin said.


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