King’s inept crusade

Grand Junction state Rep. Steve King is far out of line with his demand that the governor fire Harris Sherman and David Neslin.

Sherman, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and Neslin, the acting director the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, are both honorable men who serve this state well.

Harris, in particular, has worked to protect natural resources in this state for many decades, both as the head of the Department of Natural Resources under two governors and as an attorney in private practice. His responsibilities go well beyond the proposed new oil and gas rules that King and others object to. They include water, wildlife, parks and other resources.

And he has legal and administrative experience in these areas that few Coloradans can match.

Moreover, Harris and Neslin work for and advise Gov. Bill Ritter and it is the governor who is ultimately responsible for the policies of his administration. “The governor gets to decide who administers his agencies, and we respect that fact,” said Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, who is no fan of the new drilling rules.

Perhaps most importantly, King is attacking the wrong people.

It’s true that staffers working for Sherman and Neslin drafted the initial version of the new drilling regulations. But it was the members of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission who modified those rules, then approved the package of regulations that is to be considered by the Colorado House on Thursday.

King and other Republican lawmakers, joined by one Democrat, staged a gathering Monday to demand that Ritter delay implementation of the new rules because of the current recession.

Fair enough. We made the same argument on these pages Sunday, although we directed our arguments at the Legislature, the body in which King and the other protesters serve, and the one that has the authority right now to delay implementation of the rules.

King’s effort to make scapegoats of Sherman and Neslin is a mistaken bit of political theater that only distracts from the legislative fight over what should happen with the rules.


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