Resident expects spot on gas board
Garfield County appears on the verge of gaining representation on the state board that regulates natural gas development.Sam Potter, a co-chair of the county’s Energy Advisory Board, confirmed Friday that he expects to be appointed to a vacancy on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.”I guess it’s a done deal,” the Rifle-area resident said, although he added that he has yet to receive final confirmation of his appointment. COGCC officials could not be reached for comment.Doug Dennison, the county’s oil and gas auditor, also has been told that Potter is expected to be appointed to the COGCC and cheered the news.”I think it would be great. We’re the most active county in the state right now (for gas drilling) so it would be ideal if there were somebody from here on the commission,” he said.But the president of a local energy watchdog group criticized the circumstances behind the appointment. Duke Cox of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance said he thinks it was a conflict of interest for Potter to be supporting a proposed COGCC drilling rule change regarding surface use agreements recently when it appeared he already was aware he might end up sitting on the commission.The GVCA opposes the rule change, which aims to encourage energy companies to reach agreements with landowners over surface issues such as well pad locations. The organization fears that if the COGCC approves the rule change at its January meeting, that would dissuade the state Legislature from passing a law mandating surface use agreements.Potter declined to address Cox’s concerns or discuss his apparent appointment in much detail Friday because he has not received official confirmation in writing.Gov. Bill Owens makes the appointment. Potter said the Governor’s Office told him a few weeks ago that he was being appointed. Brian Macke, director of the COGCC, also recently told him the appointment was official, and said he should plan to attend the COGCC’s January meeting, Potter said.He said he also received an e-mail from state Department of Natural Resources director Russell George of Rifle about his appointment, and spoke at length with a COGCC staff member who provided him with information about the agency.The EAB debated the proposed surface use rule Dec. 2, and a majority of its members agreed to recommend that county commissioners endorse the rule change. On Dec. 13, commissioners voted 2-1 to follow that recommendation, after Potter spoke to them on behalf of the rule change.Cox said Potter should have recused himself from the rule change discussion once he knew he had a chance of being appointed to the COGCC.Dennison, who recommended that the county support the rule change, said he doesn’t share Cox’s concern.”Sam was one vote out of many, and he can state his opinion just as much as anybody else,” Dennison said.Dennison said he’s pleased that citizens now see the EAB as being so powerful. When he first recommended creation of the committee, a lot of people said it would have no value, he said.Cox said he thinks the EAB pushed through its rule change recommendation too fast, approving it at the same meeting where it was first discussed. He sees that as part of a larger, industry-driven push to get the rule change through after Democrats took control of the Legislature and fear arose that surface use legislation might pass.”We just think this thing is being steamrolled,” he said.Dennison said he bears some blame for the EAB’s quick action. He knew the COGCC was planning to look at the rule at its January meeting, and wanted the county to be able to weigh in on the matter.Cox said he also had the impression that appointments of COGCC members are supposed to be a more public process.He said he doesn’t mean to impugn Potter.”I’m saying that the whole situation just looks fishy,” he said.Dennison said he hasn’t seen COGCC openings advertised very widely in the past, and isn’t sure exactly how appointments are made. But he doesn’t think Potter’s appointment appeared to be handled any differently than in the past.He said he thinks the more the Western Slope is represented on the COGCC, the better.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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