Lepore lays out his view of COGCC’s mission
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colorado – The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) has a split personality of sorts, the commission’s new executive director said in a talk here on Thursday night.
“Our mission is very clearly a dual mission,” he told members of the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board, which met at the Rifle branch of the Garfield County Public Library.
On the one hand, he said, the COGCC was created to promote the development of oil and gas.
But the COGCC also was created “to protect public health, safety and the environment,” said Lepore, who was appointed last month to replace former COGCC director Dave Neslin.
“Those things have to be done in balance,” he said, speaking both to the EAB members and to an audience of about 40 people, a mixture of COGCC staffers, industry personnel and citizens hoping to learn about Lepore’s plans for the commission.
With a background as an environmental lawyer, Lepore said, he hopes to engage in an “honest, frank and civilized conversation” with oil and gas industry boosters, critics and those who have no fixed opinions either way.
An example of his plans, he said, is to continue a program of baseline water quality sampling in areas where the industry is active, to determine existing levels of pollutants as a way of gauging the effects of industry activities in the future.
He said the program is voluntary so far, and claimed a participation rate of 90 percent among oil and gas operators around Colorado. But he hopes to make it “more mandatory” to ensure that all operators are involved.
He lauded Garfield County for embarking with Colorado State University on a $1.8 million air quality study, which is expected to get under way early next year.
The study, as it currently stands, is to be funded with $1 million from the county and $800,000 from the industry.
“We clearly need more data on air emissions,” Lepore said.
In response to a question from Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, about the possible listing of the sage grouse as an endangered species, Lepore said it is up to the EPA to either list the species or not. But the state can get involved, he said, by updating existing sage grouse habitat mapping.
Lepore was asked about efforts by the city of Longmont to establish its own oil and gas regulations, and the state’s ongoing lawsuit to prevent that from happening. He said he hopes to avoid any further such legal entanglements through expanded use of the Local Government Designee program.
That program involves the designation of specific individuals in city and county governments who work directly with the COGCC on oil- and gas-related issues.
Lepore also was peppered with questions from several county residents who have been outspoken critics of the oil and gas industry and its effects on the local population.
Marion Wells of Rulison, for example, told Lepore that she had been experiencing difficulties with neighboring gas rigs for several years, but had gotten no response to her pleas for assistance to the COGCC.
“In my experience, the commission responds virtually immediately to every citizen complaint that we get,” Lepore told Wells. “It’s unacceptable that we didn’t respond.”
Wells added that COGCC personnel did come out to conduct site visits on her property, but they did not contact her in advance of those visits or after them.
Lepore pledged to look into the matter.
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