Oil and Gas commission appointments rile Senate Dems

Six members of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission won reappointment to the seven-member body, Monday.

But that vote in the state Senate didn’t come without a few fireworks from Democrats who say the commission is a tool of the oil and gas industry, rather than a regulator.

The six members approved Monday are:

  • Richard Alward of Grand Junction, a Democrat with experience in soil conservation and reclamation. His term expires July 1.
  • Thomas Compton of Hesperus, a Republican who receives royalties from oil and gas activity, and is engaged in agricultural production. His term also expires on July 1.

Four members were re-appointed with terms expiring July 1, 2019:

  • Mayor Tommy Holton of Fort Lupton, a Republican.
  • Andrew Spielman of Denver, a Democrat with experience in environmental and wildlife protection.
  • James Hawkins of Golden, a Democrat with experience in oil and gas and with a college degree in petroleum geology and engineering.
  • John Benton of Littleton, a Republican with experience in oil and gas and with a college degree in petroleum geology and engineering.

Sen. Matt Jones of Louisville objected to the appointments. The commission “works great if you’re in oil and gas,” he said, also noting that the appointments had been awaiting confirmation from the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee for the entire session. Hickenlooper announced the reappointments July 10, 2015.

Jones insisted there are problems with oil and gas operations in Colorado, almost everywhere around the state. He said he’s spoken to many people about the industry. “This is not a partisan issue outside of this building,” Jones told fellow senators.

He pointed out that a drilling rig is just 700 feet from a high school in Greeley, making it difficult for graduates to hear commencement music during graduation. Sen. John Cooke of Greeley later rebutted that statement by saying the rig is owned by the school and makes the school a lot of money.

Jones also talked about a well in Longmont, just 350 feet from schools and houses where the groundwater showed benzene 100 times the state standard. This is the only industry that is allowed to locate its activity so close to people and their homes, he added.

“I have no confidence [these members] will prioritize the health, welfare and safety of Colorado citizens….their decisions will continue to favor oil and gas.”

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, who chairs the Senate Ag committee, said he also takes issue with the commission, but from the opposite perspective.

He told the Senate that the commission overstepped its boundaries in dealing with recommendations from a Hickenlooper-convened task force last year.

“What do we have?” Sonnenberg asked. “A commission that [Jones] disagrees with” and that Sonnenberg disagrees with. “Maybe we’re just about right. I think the commission does a good job.”

Three Democrats: Jones and Sens. Jessie Ulibarri of Westminster and Mike Merrifield of Manitou Springs, also voted against the confirmation, which passed 32-3.


Photo credit: Tim Hurst, Creative Commons, Flickr

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.


  1. the continued corruption of the republican party is leading this State into ruin…Big Oil Wins again…and the folks who live here lose…

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