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Commission director apologizes to fracking critics

Lepore said they fail to see how ban would affect prices

The state’s top gas and oil regulator backpedaled on a comment he made earlier this week that fracking opponents are generally affluent enough that they don’t have to worry about heating and cooling costs.

“It was an overgeneralization and improperly so,” said Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, after a presentation at Friday’s Gas and Oil Regulatory Team meeting in Durango.

Lepore originally made the statement at an energy summit in Loveland this week. According to The (Fort Collins) Coloradoan, Lepore said that residents who “storm city hall and demand you protect their health, safety and welfare” fail to connect how banning fracking would affect natural-gas prices.

On Friday, Lepore said his comment stemmed from frustration that the economic effects of prohibiting the controversial drilling technique tend to be absent from current debates.

“I don’t hear them being discussed, and I think that’s a mistake, and maybe the improper leap that I made is that the people engaged in dialogue just aren’t worried about it,” he said. “That’s probably not true either, but I think that is where I was coming from.”

As the director of the commission, Lepore said his place probably isn’t to comment about things such as the financial status of people debating gas and oil regulation in the state.

“I wouldn’t say I think it is my role but, it’s also sort of inevitable,” Lepore said. “I think my role is to listen and to engage and to be candid and to be open and to be responsive. I try hard to do that and probably don’t bat a thousand.”

Tom Compton, a Hesperus rancher who is chairman of the nine-member Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said Lepore’s comments were taken out of context.

“I think he was making some remarks that obviously he should not have made, but I think it has been overblown a little bit,” he said.

Bruce Baizel, attorney for Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project, said Lepore’s words were inappropriate for someone whose salary is paid for by public tax dollars.

“He has no business commenting about the people that come before him,” Baizel said. “It’s the kind of talking point the industry would use, not one a public servant would be using.”

Last year, Wyoming’s gas and oil supervisor resigned after comments he made about Pavilion, Wyo., residents drew criticism from the governor, citizens and environmental groups

According to news reports, Tom Doll suggested that the Wyoming residents were driven by greed when they pressed regulators to investigate water quality in the town.

“I think they’re just looking to be compensated,” Doll was reported as saying during a meeting of state gas and oil regulators in Canada. He stepped down from the job about a week later.


Well-permit numbers lag in La Plata County

Statewide well-permit numbers for the first half of the year confirm a fact that many La Plata County residents already know: Drilling activity in the county is being dwarfed by operations in the northeastern region of the state.

La Plata County accounted for 2 percent of all drilling permit activity in 2012 and 0 percent in 2013. Weld County, by comparison, made up 48 percent of permit activity in 2012 and 62 percent of activity in 2013.

Karen Spray, the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission’s regional environmental specialist, said this year was the first time she had seen the number of permit applications in Dolores and Montezuma counties outpace those in La Plata County. Most of those permits were filed by Kinder Morgan, the national pipeline company that is drilling for carbon dioxide.

Natural-gas production statewide ticked up slightly from 2011 to 2012, but oil production in the state saw the biggest jump, increasing from 107,000 barrels per day to 135,000 barrels per day.

The more than 49 million barrels of oil produced in 2012 was the highest level since 1957.


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