Ritter taps Garfield County commissioner for COGCC | PostIndependent.com

Ritter taps Garfield County commissioner for COGCC

Pete FowlerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Garfield County Commissioner Trsi Houpt has a chance to give local government a voice on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.On Thursday, Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter named Houpt as one of five new members to the COGCC. The five additional commission members are part of a reform outlined in House Bill 1341. It’s meant to provide a greater diversity of expertise and broadens the panel’s mission. “I’m absolutely honored to have been selected by the governor. I think this is an incredible opportunity for the state of Colorado to really put together a reasonable and responsible and well-balanced approach to permitting applications,” Houpt said. “We now have people on the commission who have environmental backgrounds, public health backgrounds and wildlife backgrounds.”In addition to serving as a county commissioner, Houpt chairs Colorado Counties Inc.’s Land Use and Natural Resources Committee and is a member of the National Association of Counties Environment, Energy and Land Use Committee.The COGCC must now consider impacts to the environment, public health and wildlife when making decisions about oil and gas development. Ritter’s administration had urged lawmakers to expand the COGCC to nine members and also decrease the number of members who must have a background in the oil and gas industry to three.In the past, five of seven COGCC members had oil and gas development backgrounds, Houpt said.”It’s a broad based commission now, so we can look at all of the various issues surrounding the placement of industry,” she said.She heard Ritter’s announcement while traveling and was reached via telephone from Chicago O’Hare Airport. She was on her way to a National Association of Counties conference.Houpt, a Democrat, said she became very involved in the discussion regarding the bill reconfiguring the COGCC and was very happy when it passed.”As I continued to see energy development grow in our county, I began to realize how important it was to bring some kind of balance to the decision-making,” she said.Houpt said the previous COGCC didn’t have the ability to be as balanced.”I don’t think the laws really gave the previous commission the tools they needed to be balanced,” she said.The previous COGCC was charged with approving oil and gas permitting that was promoted in the state of Colorado, she said, and no one was charged with looking at the environmental, wildlife or public health issues.In Garfield County, Houpt believes a few of the important issues that need to be looked at are well density, proximity to homes and other structures, and the impacts on neighbors and those who have the resources beneath their property. “I think there’s a reality that we have a really valuable resource below the ground in Garfield County,” she said. “And the reality is energy development is here and what we need to figure out is how to make it compatible with the other important values in our county, and across the state as well. The Rocky Mountains are a pristine and gracious place for people to live in and to visit and we want to make sure that we preserve that over the years and for future generations.”Houpt said she wants to touch base with all the counties to learn about their situations. Part of her job on the COGCC will be “representing local government and really helping the commission understand the relationship between local, state, federal authorities and how we all impact each other,” she said.”With these new commissioners operating under a new set of goals and priorities, I’m confident we can ensure responsible and reasonable development of our vast oil and gas resources, and protect Colorado’s land, water, public health, wildlife and communities,” Ritter said in a news release. “We can create an energy future for our state and our nation that is built on the best available technology and does not come at the expense of our environmental future.”The other appointees are Michael Dowling of Denver, Richard Alward of Grand Junction, Joshua Epel of Greenwood Village, and Thomas Compton of Hesperus.The appointments must still be confirmed by the state Senate when the legislature reconvenes next year but they will be able to serve on the commission until then, Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said. If approved, they will serve for four years.The Associated Press contributed to this report.Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. 16611pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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