Hickenlooper names members of oil and gas local control task-force

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Gov. John Hickenlooper announces an agreement to form a local control task force with Boulder Congressman Jared Polis in August at the Capitol.

DENVER — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced the members of a new state task-force formed to come up with solutions to the question of how much control local communities should be allowed over the state’s booming oil and gas industry.

The formation of a task-force was a centerpiece of a last-minute agreement reached last month between Hickenlooper, the industry and Boulder Congressman Jared Polis, who agreed to drop his two proposed ballot initiatives that sought to quadruple the distance wells must be set back from development and to enable municipalities to ban drilling outright.

The oil and gas industry was prepared to spend millions to defeat the initiatives, which could have cost millions if not billions in future development if passed.

Some skeptics view the task-force as a political move aimed at buying time — having the initiatives on this year’s ballot and the ensuing campaign fight was widely viewed as something likely to help Republicans this fall — and worry that, if nothing comes of it, Polis will be back pushing the initiatives in 2016.

Hickenlooper, however, is optimistic.

“Critical to the success and effectiveness of this task force is ensuring there is balanced and informed representation,” said Hickenlooper in a statement. “We are confident that the task force members we have assembled to take on these critically important issues for our state are exactly the right group to ensure that Colorado‚Äôs economy and environment remain healthy and robust.

“We are grateful to all of these board members for their willingness to work together to help find the right solution for Colorado. And we are grateful to the many applicants who submitted their names for consideration.”

The 19-member task force, chosen from more than 300 applicants, will be chaired by La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, who was chosen by Polis, and Randy Cleveland, president of XTO Energy, Inc, who was appointed by Hickenlooper.

Polis called its formation “the first step forward in solving the problem of fracking occurring anywhere and everywhere.

“I am pleased that this commission allows us to have a statewide conversation about the impact of fracking in Colorado and that it elevates the voices of the affected communities and homeowners, who have experienced the results of oil and gas operations near where we work, live and play.”

The task force is charged with crafting recommendations to help minimize land use conflicts that can occur when siting oil and gas facilities near homes, schools, businesses and recreational areas, according to the governor’s office.

“I am hopeful that parties on all sides of this debate will support this commissions work and that its recommendations will lead to greater protections for homeowners and Colorado families across the state,” Polis continued.

Policy recommendations are due in March, leaving lawmakers less than two months to craft and pass legislation in the 2015 legislative session.

Here are the members:

Sara Barwinski, member of community group, Weld Air and Water
Bernie Buescher, former Colorado Secretary of State
Peter Dea, president & CEO, Cirque Resources LP
Jim Fitzgerald, rancher, educator, activist
Russ George, former Speaker of the House and former exec. director of Department of Natural Resources
Jon Goldin-Dubois, president, Western Resources Advocates
Brad Holly, vice president of operations (Rocky Mountain Region), Anadarko
Dan Kelly, vice president of Wattenberg Business Unit, Noble Energy
Rebecca Kourlis, retired justice of the Colorado Supreme Court; executive director, Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System
Steve Moreno, Clerk and Recorder, Weld County
Perry Pearce, manager of state government affairs (Rocky Mountain Region), ConocoPhillips
Kent Peppler, president, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, farmer
Pat Quinn, former mayor, Broomfield
Bruce Rau, vice chairman/treasurer, Colorado Association of Home Builders
Jeff Robbins, attorney, Goldman Robbins & Nicholson
Matt Sura, attorney, Law Office of Matthew Sura
Will Toor, former Boulder mayor and Boulder County Commissioner
Elbra Wedgeworth, chief government & community relations officer, Denver Health

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