Julie Murphy was welcomed by her fellow colleagues as the COGCC held its March 19, 2018 hearing, and during a lively public comment session, voices both for and against oil and gas development were inked into the record

Director Julie Murphy Begins Her Era as Colorado’s Top Oil Regulator

COGCC Offices

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission started the day with a brief roll call and welcomed a new honcho, Director Julie Murphy.

Deep background in minerals, reclamation, oil and gas policy at DNR

Murphy was formerly the Assistant Director for Energy and Minerals at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR). At DNR, Murphy addressed policy, technical and legal perspectives on oil and gas, as well as mining and reclamation.

Prior to her DNR role, she worked at the COGCC as the hearings and regulatory affairs manager, directing the agency’s legal affairs and its attorneys. Murphy previously represented the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety and COGCC as an assistant attorney general.

Many voices at the first hearing

After roll call, the commissioners and staff quickly got down to business.

Murphy, no stranger to the oil and gas industry, seemed to be in her element as the commission explained the public commenting rules – three minutes of comments per person with, a 30-second time limit warning.

No shortage of commentary from calm, collected and hecklers

Director Julie Murphy Begins Her Era as Colorado’s Top Oil Regulator

COGCC Full House, Mar. 19, 2018 Photo by Oil & Gas 360®

The commission moved the public comments up to 9 a.m., instead of the usual 10 a.m. time-slot. Some commenters came late, but almost all of them were there with prepared statements. Participants could register online or sign up in person.


Jan Rose started off by welcoming the new director and thanked the COGCC for supporting the new reporting bill making its way through the legislature.

Rose moved on to the oil spills in Weld County, and said that there have been 29 spills/accidents in the past two weeks, or 720~ spills for the whole year. She estimated that there were around 620 spills in the whole state of Colorado and that it was remarkable that one county would “blow the doors off” statewide accident report statistics.

Several commenters mentioned hot button issues, such as the Bella Romero Academy, the Martinez case and the proximity of operations near homes and schools.

Director Julie Murphy Begins Her Era as Colorado’s Top Oil Regulator

The naysayers’ words did not fall upon deaf ears. Chair John H. Benton was seen actively note-taking throughout the public commenting session. Photo by Oil & Gas 360®

The Martinez case is pending a hearing by the Colorado Supreme Court, and the anti-frac crowd urged a moratorium while the Supreme Court approaches the case for hearing. Additionally, these commenters wanted the COGCC to deny granting additional land allotments for operators.

COGCC Hearing Agenda Sample Land Application Excerpt, Mar. 19, 2018


Noble Energy’s Director of U.S. Onshore Government Relations and Communications Brian Miller voiced his support for the oil and gas industry and noted that this was his first time speaking in the COGCC’s forum. Miller commended the COGCC for balancing issues in a democracy and withstanding criticism from the naysayers.

Colorado has “some of the most progressive oil and gas regulations”

Miller said, “I can say with my hand held high, that the state of Colorado has some of the most progressive oil and gas regulations in this country.”

Other positive oil and gas commenters cited the revenues that the industry contributes to the state – such as money for schools, taxes and jobs. One commenter, whose name was Chad, said that the industry provides around 2,000 jobs, 23 billion in payroll and ~10% of jobs in Colorado.

Natalie Ellers, a Colorado native, said she grew up seeing smog while she lived in Lakewood, Colorado. She went on to say that the industry and COGCC has reduced the smog drastically over the past 15-20 years, and for the past seven years, she has been helping the state retrofit legacy operations – further reducing pollution.

While Ellers agreed with some of the concerns stated before her, she said that oil and gas produced within Colorado was a “local product,” and that it was not fair to encourage local products (such as produce), but exclude oil and gas.

For or against, Chairman Benton keeps the line moving

After the last round of comments, the commission repeatedly asked whether or not everyone who signed up had a chance to speak. Additionally, Chair John H. Benton politely warned and/or stopped people after three their minutes were up – whether the commenters were against fracing or for it, Benton evenly gave speakers three minutes.

Overall, the atmosphere of the room was civil. Though the commenters may have had opposing views, they sat side-by-side without hostility.

Unfortunately, the anti-fracing commenters left after the public comment session portion of the hearing concluded—just before the COGCC began to address the very comments they bought up during the session.

COGCC replies to an emptied room

About half of the chairs were vacant as the COGCC moved forward with the hearing after the break. The commissioners addressed issues that were surfaced such as proximity of operations near schools, forced pooling and spacing and how operators could work with the COGCC to improve the homeowner notification process.

Director Murphy said that she would have liked to engage with school-related issues more while she was assistant director, but time constraints during the transition period to director, led her to say that her “staff does not currently have a recommendation for you at this time.”

She projected a timeframe near the end of April/beginning of May, to address this issue. However, she voiced optimism for co-development between schools and operators, and she has been in contact with at least one school district.

Use non-technical wording, please

The last commenter, Amika Rosen, bought up a longstanding issue – operators notifying homeowners about planned development.

Due to the unclear notification letter filled with industry terms, she came to the hearing to put on the record that she wanted to compensation for any operations done. She contacted the lawyers on the paperwork, and they told her to come to the COGCC meeting. Rosen noted that she was not for or against fracing – but she repeatedly said that she wanted compensation. The lawyers and COGCC redirected her in a loop, she said.

However, the COGCC commission did address this issue directly during the commissioner comments period. Commissioner Ashley Ager recommended several improvements to the notification process. One, there should be a basic map included in addition to the land application information (refer to the “COGCC Hearing Agenda Land Application Excerpt” image above). Two, a FAQ explaining forced pooling, mineral rights and spacing should be included and three, clarifying contact information to reduce the number of phone calls the COGCC receives from homeowners on a “weekly basis.”

Such information, as discussed by the commissioners, would be included in the notification process via brochure.

There were some consistent hecklers, but not to the point of disrupting the meeting.

The new director was all business, composed, aware of the concerns that people were voicing and had no problem interacting in a crowd that was about three-fourths negative to oil and gas and one-fourth positive to the development of these resources.

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