Oil and gas board members in limbo


Commission makeup

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has nine members. State law dictates exactly what background they should have:

• One local government representative.

• One with environmental or wildlife protection experience.

• One with soil conservation or reclamation experience.

• One with agricultural production experience or a royalty owner.

• Two state executive directors.

• Two must hail from the Western Slope.

• Three must work in the oil and gas industry.

• Two of the three oil and gas members must have college degrees in petroleum geology or petroleum engineering.

• No more than four can be from the same political party.

Grand Junction environmental scientist Richard Alward doesn’t know if he’s still on the state panel that oversees oil and gas production in Colorado.

That’s because Gov. John Hickenlooper hasn’t said whether he and five others will be reappointed to the nine-member panel despite their terms expiring a week ago.

Those appointments don’t include a seventh position that has remained unfilled for nearly eight months. That vacancy was created when former Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt lost re-election in November and resigned as the panel’s sole local government representative.

The only two commissioners who know they will be on the panel are Mike King and Chris Urbina. That’s because the executive directors of the Colorado departments of Natural Resources and Public Health and Environment, respectively, are, by law, voting ex-officio members of it.

Eric Brown, the governor’s press secretary, said an announcement is expected soon, but he couldn’t explain why Houpt’s seat has remained open for so long.

“I’m told we expect to have an announcement in the coming days, likely early next week,” he said Thursday. “Recognize that we came into office Jan. 11, so I can’t speak to what happened under Gov. (Bill) Ritter. We didn’t start making appointments to boards and commissions until March. I can’t reach the right people now who have been closer to the selection process. I do know that there are a lot of moving parts with appointments to all boards and commissions. Some take time.”

Alward said he applied to remain on the panel, but not everyone has.

“I’ve reapplied, but I haven’t heard anything yet,” Alward said. “I think there are some who wanted to stay on, some who didn’t, so the governor was hoping to pull together a sweep of appointments. The latest I heard he was hoping to make a decision this month.”

Alward said there isn’t any hurry, though. The commission isn’t scheduled to meet again until August.

Still, he said he didn’t know why Houpt’s seat hasn’t been filled.

“There was a voice not being heard as far as considering some issues. That was a vacuum,” he said. “That local government perspective was missing.”

State law requires a minimum of two people from west of the Continental Divide sit on that board, but the region had three when Houpt was on the panel. The other one is Hesperus rancher Tom Compton. The Western Slope appointees don’t include King, who is a Montrose native.


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