Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has appointed the members of a new, professional, five-member Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to replace the former nine-member volunteer group.
The creation and subsequent transformation of the COGCC was mandated by state Senate Bill (SB) 181, which Polis signed into law last year.
The legislation overhauled regulations governing the oil and gas segment, with an emphasis on protecting the environment and giving local governments greater authority to regulate the industry.
“These new appointees will build upon the progress the volunteer commission has made thus far, and the professionalization of these roles is an important step for streamlining the process and increasing regulatory efficiency in Colorado,” Polis said earlier this month.
The appointees comprise Priya K. Nanjappa, Karin McGowan, John Messner, Bill Gonzalez and Jeffery Robbins. Robbins has served as the volunteer director of COGCC since his appointment by Polis in 2019.
While Robbins will stay on as a commissioner, he is to be replaced as director by Julie Murphy, who serves currently as the COGCC’s chief of staff and senior policy adviser.
Each appointee has a distinct area of expertise and experience, as stipulated by SB-181.
Nanjappa, whose term begins July 8 and expires July 1, 2022, is to serve “as a member with formal training or substantial experience in environmental protection, wildlife protection, or reclamation,” COGCC said.
McGowan’s areas of expertise are public health, health equity, and air and water policy.
Messner, who has served as s Gunnison County commissioner, is to serve as a member with substantial expertise in planning or land use.
Gonzalez, who worked previously as land manager for Occidental Petroleum Corp., serves as a member with substantial experience in the oil and gas industry.
Robbins, meanwhile, is to serve “as a member 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,” COGCC said.
The transition comes amid a period of upheaval in the industry, which has faced increasing scrutiny over its impact on climate change and the environment, and unprecedented demand destruction caused by the coronavirus.
Denver-based Extraction Oil & Gas Inc., among Colorado’s biggest oil producers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month, citing the impacts of Covid-19 and low commodity prices on its business.
Recent rulemakings by the COGCC under the larger framework of SB-181 include new wellbore integrity standards, and a controversial set of rules to reduce methane emissions and air pollution from oil and gas operations.
Colorado’s active rig count stood at five as of Friday, down from six the previous week and 29 for the similar 2019 week, according to the latest data from Baker Hughes Co.
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