GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. " Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, wants a new direction and a new director for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
King sent a letter to Gov. Bill Ritter Monday asking him to replace COGCC Director Dave Neslin in light of last week's approval of several oil and gas rule changes by the commission. King said he's concerned Neslin doesn't have western Colorado's best interests at heart, especially after Neslin showed little concern about a natural gas drilling decrease here in an interview with the Rocky Mountain News.
"The comments that have been made about how even if we had a drilling decrease of 20 to 30 percent, it would take us back to where we were a couple years ago, that's unacceptable," King said.
Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said the governor has no plans to dismiss Neslin, who is a paid staff member and not one of the commissioners who approved the final rules.
"If representative King has a beef, he should be directing it to the commission," Dreyer said.
Ritter praised the rules and the lengthy amount of time the commission and his administration spent on the 18-month process.
"These new rules strike an important balance that will protect the environment while encouraging responsible industry growth," Ritter said. "They ensure timely and efficient permitting. They protect drinking water supplies. They reduce odors and air emissions. They require operators to disclose chemicals used in drilling, and they increase regulatory transparency."
Harris Sherman, chairman of the commission, defended Neslin as a "hard-working, diligent, fair-minded public servant."
"His observation that the oil and gas boom is likely to moderate in 2009 because of market forces outside of Colorado's control is a view that is supported by most industry experts and market analysts. The accusation that he has been indifferent to the prospect of job losses on the West Slope is unfair and a distortion of his comments," Sherman said.
Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico are also expected to see a drop in drilling operations next year. None of those states has experienced any recent rule-making changes.
King said he's concerned the rules are "one size fits all" and criticized the commission for approving the rules nearly six months after they were scheduled for adoption, saying it created a "fear of the unknown" for oil and gas producers. He said the rules need to be "revisited" when they go to the state Legislature for final approval in 2009.
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