Update: Professional Oil and Gas Commissioners Hired

  • Oil and gas pump jack in front of mountain landscape

The Colorado legislature passed Senate Bill 181 in 2019, which fundamentally changed the mission of Colorado oil and gas regulators to protect public health and safety above industry profits. This year, the work continues as the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission interprets and implements Senate Bill 181, making rules that will determine the most significant impacts on the lives of Coloradans

The Commission is taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but they haven’t stopped working to implement Senate Bill 181 and ensure that, when it comes to oil and gas drilling, Coloradans’ health and safety comes first. Beau Kiklis, Conservation Colorado’s public lands advocate, explained the impacts of a full-time professional commission and offered suggestions for how to weigh in to support a healthy future for Colorado.

Why did the agency hire full-time professionals?

Senate Bill 181 addressed the serious concerns of oil and gas development putting public health and safety at risk. Because these impacts and risks had become so significant, the law called for greater sophistication at the commissioner level. Instead of the previous all-volunteer Commission, the agency now staffs five full-time professionals who will broaden the Commission’s expertise and ensure it fulfills its new mission. The new commissioners, who officially began their terms on July 1st, will work to bring wide-ranging improvements to the impacts of oil and gas on communities, public health and local economies.

Who are the new professional commissioners, and what are their responsibilities?

The new commissioners and their areas of expertise are Bill Gonzalez (oil and gas), Karen McGowan (public health), John Messner (planning and land use), Priya Nanjaapa (environment and wildlife) and Jeff Robbins (at-large, previous Commission Director). Julie Murphy, who brings extensive experience in oil and gas regulation, is now assuming the role of Director of the agency. These new commissioners are tasked with adopting rules that fulfill the agency’s new mission, so the professional commissioners’ unique backgrounds will be critical in making sound decisions that consider impacts on varied stakeholders across Colorado. 

What changes were made to the SB-181 rulemaking timeline?

In May 2020, the Commission chose to delay the Mission Change rulemaking in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and so that the new Commission would preside over the rulemaking. The Mission Change rulemaking hearings will begin on August 24th and run through September 10th. However, the components of the rulemaking related to wildlife protection and flaring were moved to late September and early October.

How can I stay involved through changes to the rulemaking timeline and new professional Commission?

You can still submit a written comment on the Mission Change rulemaking now through August 14th. The Commission will soon provide an opportunity to sign up to testify at their hearing on the afternoon of August 24th. Wildlife protection and flaring hearings in late September and early October also offer an opportunity to speak up through public comment or testimony. The deadline to submit a comment on these rules is September 14th.