FILE - Colorado Oil Development

A drilling rig stands over a natural gas well on the Roan Plateau west of Rifle, Colo., in this photograph taken on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006. 

(The Center Square) – Colorado’s Senate confirmed Gov. Jared Polis’ first five appointments to the revamped Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission this week as a part of the implementation of SB 19-181.

“Coloradans are better off because of the work of this Commission, which has demonstrated the expertise and professionalism necessary to implement the landmark SB 19-181," Polis said in a statement.

The commission was created in 2007 to “foster the responsible, balanced development, production, and utilization of the natural resources of oil and gas in the state of Colorado,” according to state law.

In 2019, SB-181 revised the commission’s mission to foster the “development of oil and gas resources in a manner "consistent" with the protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.”

The bill also shrunk the commission by four seats in July 2020, and Polis was given statutory authority to appoint a new five-member board.

Republicans who opposed the appointments argued the new commissioners did not represent Colorado or the state oil and gas industry.

“The geographic representation that these five appointments comprise does not fit with what this branch put in statute,” Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said in the Senate chambers.

According to the statute, “At least two members shall be appointed from west of the continental divide, and … the other members shall be appointed taking into account the need for geographical representation of other areas of the state with high levels of oil and gas activity or employment.”

Two of the five confirmed Commissioners represent Lakewood, and one commissioner represents each of Denver, Gunnison, and Durango.

Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, described the appointments as an example of the Senate ignoring the laws it has passed.

“There is no representation from northeast Colorado, or northwest Colorado,” he said. "Rio Blanco, Garfield, Mesa, other high producing counties are not represented on this board."

Weld County produces 90 percent of the state’s oil, according to the US Energy Information Agency. Last year, it produced 141 million barrels of oil, more than double that of Adams County, which ranked number-2 in production.