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Senate confirms Polis appointees to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation


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The Colorado General Assembly decided in 2019 to replace political appointees with experts on the state oil and gas regulatory board. Monday, the Colorado Senate seated the first panel of experts who will do the work.

The debate Monday wasn’t without fireworks from Republicans, angry over who they claim were left off the panel. 

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is made up of:

  • Priya K. Nanjappa of Lakewood fills the spot designated for a commissioner with formal training or substantial experience in environmental protection, wildlife protection or reclamation.
  • Karin L. McGowan of Lakewood serves as the commissioner with formal training or substantial experience in public health;
  • John August Messner of Gunnison is the panel’s expert on planning or land use.
  • Guillermo “Bill” E. Gonzalez III of Denver is the commissioner from the oil and gas industry.
  • Jeffrey Philip Robbins of Durango is the chairman “with professional experience demonstrating an ability to contribute to the commission’s body of expertise that will aid the commission in making sound, balanced decisions,” the commission office explained.

Non-voting members of the commission are the executive directors or their designees from the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Public Health and Environment.

Monday’s vote drew Republicans from oil-producing counties to the podium to state that the appointments lack the geographic diversity required by the law. 

Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, noted that none of the commission members are from areas that include oil and gas activity. Senate Bill 19-181 requires board appointments to take into account “geographical representation of other areas of the state with high levels of current or anticipated oil and gas activity or employment.”

“I’m not aware of a lot of oil and gas production going on in Lakewood,” Coram said, noting that 30% of the commissioners come from the Denver suburb. 

Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, opposed all five nominees, saying there was no inclusion nor diversity on this board. “This is not the intent of the law,” he said.

With one representative from Denver, two from Lakewood, one from Durango and one from Gunnison, there is no representation from northeast or northwest Colorado, which include high-producing counties.

Weld County produced 141 million barrels of oil, more than double Adams County, the number-two producer, Cooke said. He also noted that the board is made up of three Democrats and two unaffiliated members, no Republicans, which Cooke said skirts the law. 

The protests did not change the outcome.

“Coloradans are better off because of the work of this commission, which has demonstrated the expertise and professionalism necessary to implement the landmark SB 19-181,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement.

Polis called it “historic mission change” in how rules for oil and gas are written in Colorado, allowing for more diverse stakeholders. The commissioners will put in hundreds of hours of hearing testimony and deliberating before deciding rules, the…

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