Eric Carlson takes the helm of West Slope oil and gas trade group
garfield county energy advisory board
When: Monthly meeting Thursday, Dec. 6 (5:30 p.m. dinner, program at 6)
Where: Garfield County Rifle Administration Building, 195 W. 14th St., second floor
Speaker: Taylor Elm, regional energy liaison, Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Elm will discuss the agency’s role to regulate oil and gas activity in a manner that minimizes wildlife and habitat impacts.
Those in attendance at this week’s Garfield County Energy Advisory Board meeting in Rifle will likely get the chance to meet Eric Carlson, the new representative for the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.
Carlson, who started as the oil and natural gas industry trade association’s new executive director earlier in November, replaces longtime representative David Ludlam, who took a job with Colorado Mesa University. Carlson said he looks forward to becoming a voice for the industry across the region.
He said he’s already met with several directors of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, as well as the board of directors for COGA, which includes many local managers and presidents of various oil and gas companies.
“We talked about goals the industry has here to provide a safe and clean energy source for customers,” Carlson explained.
Before moving to the Western Slope, Carlson had previous experience working with the oil and gas industry from the regulatory side. He said he saw firsthand the change in technology with horizontal fracking and changes in oversight in multiple states, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
He said one of the most important changes to the industry he’s seen in recent years is that companies are able to access resources using much less of a surface footprint with new technologies, as they work to continue to minimize land disturbance and physical impacts.
“The industry has evolved and adapted very rapidly,” he added. He noted that Colorado currently has adopted some of the strictest air-quality regulations in the country. Companies also continue to see what the best practices are to improve air quality as it relates to the industry, he said.
“I’ve seen a proactive commitment by companies, and it’s something they do internally,” he added.
Though Carlson joined COGA on the tail end of the election cycle, he remains encouraged by the rejection of Proposition 112, which sought to increase setbacks for oil and gas operations throughout Colorado.
“It’s rewarding to know the people know the value the industry provides,” he explained.
He mentioned how heavily the industry is taxed and that those taxes go back into schools, parks, public funding and community development — a value that Carlson said he believes voters supported on Election Day.
Proposition 112 was shot down by a 55-45 percent margin statewide. In Garfield County, that margin was a bit closer, with 54 percent of voters opposed to 46 percent in favor.
“It’s rewarding, but it’s also a challenge to remind us to continue to communicate with the public,” Carlson added.
He felt the “craftily worded” ballot initiative would have been unprecedented and essentially would have pushed the industry to extreme limits.
“We will work with the administration,” Carlson said of the newly elected Democratic governor, Jared Polis. “I’m not sure what to expect with new administration, but we will work through whatever issues are brought forward.”
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