Lepore is too good to be true

Lepore lays out his view of COGCC’s mission
New director chats with industry critics at EAB meeting

I waited until John Colson published his article about the EAB meeting and the new COGCC Executive Director Matthew Leporen (thanks John!). I did go to the meeting but I didn’t feel very good that night so I took lousy notes. Plus I was confused. I thought Lepore was going to stay for public comments but he didn’t. So that was disappointing.

Anyway, the article is a good summary of Lepore’s talk and the Q&A that followed. Though I think there were more than 40 people in the audience. Seemed more like 50-60 to me. They had to set up extra chairs in back of the room. Commissioners Mike Samson and Tom Jankovsky were there, as well as Commissioner candidates Sonja Linman and Aleks Briedis. The salad and pizza were provided by Bill Barrett Corporation, which nauseated me. I didn’t eat.

It’s easy to be impressed by Matthew Lepore. He was an environmental lawyer and he’s a cyclist. He is personable and good at connecting with people – a real human being. He talked about his favorite saying that he saw on a sign in his neighborhood: “Drive like your own kids play here.” He said he thinks it should apply to oil and gas development. Of course that is certainly not the case here in Garfield County but it’s a worthy goal for someone in his position. He mentioned that he toured two “immaculate” drill sites belonging to an unnamed company. I think it they were EnCana’s because he looked at the two women representatives from EnCana when he talked about it. I mention it only to point out Lepore’s visit was carefully managed and he was shown the best face of oil and gas drilling in Garfield County. Likewise his views and his vision represent the best face of the COGCC.

He likes Garfield County’s Energy Advisory Board and said it is the only board of its kind in Colorado. Because of his experience as an environmental lawyer, Lepore said he is all for mitigation. He believes people and energy companies need to come together and work out the parameters. I don’t think he understands that’s not quite how the EAB functions here.

During the Q&A, as the article says, Lepore was “peppered” with questions from the audience. At one point, he shed his sport coat. I guess we made him sweat. I think it was when Marion Wells said “she had been experiencing difficulties with neighboring gas rigs for several years, but had gotten no response to her pleas for assistance to the COGCC” and he responded that they get thousands of complaints and don’t have the staff to keep up. He paused for a second and admitted maybe they should look into why they have so many complaints. My thoughts exactly. This humanized him.

Lepore learned we have a lot of issues in Garfield County. He listened carefully. He didn’t evade questions, or spew propaganda. He admitted when he didn’t know the answers.

He is just too good to be true.

Because I thought Lepore would stay for public comments, I didn’t bring up Barrett’s flare stacks during the Q&A. I couldn’t think of how to phrase it in a way that wouldn’t put him on the defensive. Besides it denigrates the issue to reduce it to a 30-second sound byte. I sent him an email instead because I believe he should be made aware of our situation — the down and dirty side of drilling here — as opposed to the “immaculate” illusion.

During public comments, Tara Meixsell brought up her concerns that the Battlement Mesa HIA and the Mamm Creek Study were abandoned in favor of the proposed CSU Study. GarCo Oil & Gas Liaison Kirby Wynn assured her those studies will be taken into consideration with the new improved CSU study. Tommy Thompson talked about the high costs of taking on the industry in court. Marion Wells elaborated in more detail on the difficulty, delay, and frustration surface owners face when they complain about serious issues to the county and state.

Public speaking is not really my thing. Plus this is an extremely emotional issue. I said this:

I am here to draw your attention to and to protest Bill Barrett Corporations’ flare stacks on Mineota Ridge less than a mile south of Silt. Those stacks are surrounded by residential areas. Whether or not the stacks are flaring or venting they are releasing tons of toxins including hydrogen sulfide, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, hydrocarbons, and other VOCs into our air. Since these stacks appeared our already poor air quality has become toxic.

On August 27, Shaun Kellerby from the Rifle COGCC office informed me the stacks belong to Bill Barrett. He assured me the flare stacks are perfectly legal and not in violation of state regulations. Then on August 29, I talked to Paul Reaser, the Garfield County environmental health program manager. I complained about the air pollution caused by those flare stacks and I asked for air quality monitoring in Silt. But he seemed unconcerned, saying the county “would have to look into that.” He also said that air quality monitoring was done in Silt back in 2005. We need current air quality data right now to compare to the baseline data back then so we can see what’s happening to our air quality.

My husband Tod and I moved here in 1996, because we thought Colorado and specifically western Garfield County was a healthy place to live, work and raise a family. We never intended to live in the middle of a gas field. But that is exactly what is happening to us. With all of this increased drilling activity so close to our residential areas, the town of Silt is rapidly becoming unlivable.

We don’t live in a bubble. We have family and friends all over the world. When we tell them what’s going on here, they don’t believe this could possibly be happening. The lack of consideration to public health, much less the environment in Garfield County and the state of Colorado is truly shocking – and devastating to me personally because it means we will have to leave here to protect our own health.

I am embarrassed and ashamed to live in a county and state where our government representatives and officials care so little about human beings they let the oil and gas industry not only rob of us clean water and our quality of life, now they are poisoning the air we breathe.

Bill Barrett’s flare stacks should be closed, shut in – or whatever technology it takes to stop them from polluting our air. Silt needs and deserves air quality monitoring right now.

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One Comment on “Lepore is too good to be true”

  1. Beth Strudley Says:

    Ewwww.

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