By Michael Sandoval | Colorado Watchdog
DENVER — For the new Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission director, regulation of the state’s energy industry is not a priority, but a necessity.
Matt Lepore, who began his tenure this month, told the Fort Collins Coloradoan that a “regulatory eye” must vigilantly scrutinize oil and gas producers.
“It’s pretty clear those industries need to be regulated,” he told the paper.
The oil and gas corporations “don’t have a conscience,” said Lepore, differentiating them from the people who work inside the companies.
“Industry’s motive is to make money. If allowed, corporations will externalize costs. So, environmental regulations are one way in which we ensure corporations internalize costs appropriately,” Lepore said.
But Lepore acknowledged that with only a limited number of inspectors on hand, the state must rely on the energy companies self-reporting spills or leaks in order to concentrate on new sites being drilled or fracked.
Lepore’s appointment comes at a contentious period for regulatory supremacy in Colorado. He is a former assistant state’s attorney for Colorado and has decades of experience in natural resource and environmental law. Lepore also has served as an attorney for COGCC in the past.
Uncertainty over regulatory authority at the local level, said Lepore, has prevented the jurisdictional clarity between state and local regulatory schemes necessary for more responsive industry regulation and supervision.
“Litigation is horribly inefficient,” said Lepore, referring to the COGCC lawsuit against the city of Longmont. An attempt to assert local control over drilling and fracking efforts by Longmont has drawn the first plaintiff filing by the state’s regulatory body.
But Lepore said he believes the lawsuit is “necessary” and “timely.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper recently announced additional oil and gas guidelines that should be incorporated within rules or added to them to make resource extraction “safe and transparent” and more acceptable to Colorado’s residents.
Fracking has provided much of the push for — and resistance to — further natural resource development along the Front Range.
“I think the state should develop its oil and gas resources including its shale gas and shale oil resources and you cannot do that without fracking,” said Lepore.
Contact Michael Sandoval at email@example.com