DENVER (AP) – The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission director who oversaw the 2008 overhaul of oil and natural gas development rules said Wednesday he plans to resign to join a Denver law firm March 1.

David Neslin will focus on public lands as a partner at Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP, where he will be part of a team serving energy industry clients.

He had been among heads of state agencies who were told they would have to reapply for their jobs after Gov. John Hickenlooper took office last year. In June, state officials said Neslin would stay in his role at the commission for one more year.

But Neslin said the timing is right to move on.

In his tenure, the state has shortened processing times for oil and gas permits and extended how long drilling permits last. Late last year, the commission worked with industry representatives and environmental groups to adopt a rule requiring companies to publicly disclose the maximum concentrations of chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing, not just the chemicals themselves, with some protections for trade secrets.

In recent months, Neslin has worked with local governments who are trying to adopt their own rules to address impacts of drilling. Neslin’s goal has been to ensure local rules don’t duplicate areas already regulated by the state.

“I’ve been able to accomplish lot of things I wanted to do during this year,” Neslin said. “I’m ready for change. I’m ready to start the next chapter of my career.”

Thom Kerr, who manages permitting and technical services for the commission, will be acting director until a permanent director is named.

Neslin was appointed commission director in November 2007. He has presided over a time of growing exploration in natural gas and oil in Colorado, of raised awareness of hydraulic fracturing, and during what Department of Natural Resources director Mike King called “the most challenging period in agency history.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a written statement that Neslin brought varied interests together to do what’s best for the environment, business and Colorado.

“We all share the same objectives. We all consume energy. It’s an important part of our daily lives. The development of oil and gas provides good-paying jobs and needed tax revenues,” Neslin said. “But at the same time, we all live in Colorado. We need to protect the public and the environment and what makes it a special place.

“Those are things everyone shares, whether they work in the industry or they’re part of environmental groups,” Neslin said. “Sometimes the issues are perceived as “either-or” issues. It’s the commission’s job to do both.”

Some counties have tried to do that with their own rules. On Tuesday, El Paso County commissioners approved local rules for addressing some impacts of drilling, but they also plan to work with the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on an intergovernmental agreement to address other areas of concern during the state’s permitting process for oil and gas operations in their county.

George Monsson, senior assistant El Paso County attorney, said he was surprised Neslin was leaving.

“That’s going to make things more interesting until someone else gets in there,” he said.

– By Catherine Tsai, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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