State gas panel reappoints Hesperus rancher
Durango Herald | Joe Hanel
July 29, 2011
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DENVER – Hesperus rancher Tom Compton is one of just two oil and gas commissioners to be reappointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday.
Hickenlooper, a former petroleum geologist, courted the gas industry during his campaign for governor last year. He also said in the closing days of the campaign that he would like to work with the industry in crafting a “voluntary” tax increase to help fund college scholarships.
“We are confident this group will help serve the industry, land owners and the environment well as it navigates through issues that are important to both the state’s economy and protection of Colorado’s beautiful landscapes,” Hickenlooper said in a news release.
Gwen Lachelt, director of the Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, said the appointments make the commission feel more industry-dominated than the previous panel.
“I just hope that those folks are willing to listen to the concerns of Coloradans who live with oil and gas development and make fair and balanced decisions,” Lachelt said.
Fort Lupton Mayor Tommy E. Holton, a Republican, will fill the seat reserved for local governments. Holton previously worked as a machinist in an oil field services business, and his home county of Weld has about half the state’s oil and gas wells.
In 2007, former Gov. Bill Ritter gave the local government seat to Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt, a Democrat and vocal critic of the industry.
Compton served on the commission since 2007, when Ritter overhauled it and commissioners adopted a lengthy set of environmental rules.
“I think they’re a pretty good set of rules, and I’d like to be involved in seeing them play out for another couple of years,” Compton said.
The rules touched off a political war between Ritter and the gas industry, but the two sides had moved toward a truce by the time Ritter left office.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry group, dropped its lawsuit over the rules after Hickenlooper took office this year, and the commission has been free of major political battles for at least a year, Compton said.