Hot Sheet

Colorado’s chief oil & gas regulator moves on, draws darts as well as accolades

Author: Dan Njegomir - February 21, 2018 - Updated: February 21, 2018

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Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Director Matt Lepore has announced his resignation. (kunc.org)

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper had kind words Tuesday for Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Director Matt Lepore, who announced he would resign next month to return to the private sector.

The anti-oil-and-gas advocacy group Food & Water Watch, meanwhile, said Lepore shouldn’t let the door swat him in the backside on his way out. Well, something like that.

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources touted Lepore’s tenure in a press release:

Under Lepore’s leadership, the COGCC comprehensively strengthened the state’s oil and gas regulations, expanded Commission staff to improve oversight of industry activities, amplified the role of local governments and dramatically increased the access and volume of regulatory data available to the public.

…and elaborated:

Lepore led regulatory changes to increase distances between drilling and neighborhoods; reduce the effects of light, noise and odors; protect and monitor groundwater; tighten requirements for spill reporting; significantly elevate penalties for operators violating Commission rules; toughen requirements for operating in floodplains; increase the role of local governments in siting large operations near communities and overhaul requirements for design, installation, maintenance, testing, tracking and abandoning flowlines.

Here’s the guv, quoted in the press release:

“Matt performed one of the most demanding jobs in state government. He did so with style and substance that provided calm over an area often at the center of controversy … Matt always put safeguarding public safety and the environment first. Under his leadership, Colorado developed regulations that have been used as models across the country.”

Not so fast, said Lauren Petrie, the Rocky Mountain region director of Food & Water Watch, in a statement the group released shortly after Lepore’s announcement:

We welcome Lepore’s long overdue departure from the COGCC — it might just be the best decision he’s made as the agency’s leader. Coloradans are waking up to the fact that the COGCC is failing miserably to protect our health and safety. It comes as no surprise that Lepore’s next move will be lobbying for the fossil fuel industry, since he has been protecting its interests during his five-year tenure as a regulator. While we are happy to see Lepore go, we will hold the new director accountable to protect the public interest, just the same.”

Lepore will join the energy consulting firm Adamantine Energy. His successor as commission director already has been named: Julie Murphy, currently assistant director for energy and minerals at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.