Appointees approved for revised Aurora oil, gas advisory board


AURORA | The city’s new oil and gas advisory committee finally has members to do its work.

Aurora City Council approved five citizen members, three industry representatives and three surface/mineral rights owners for the revamped committee during the Monday, March 14, regular council meeting.

The committee will assist the council in promoting efficient and equitable handling of oil and gas exploration while protecting the city’s natural resources and local quality of life.

Council members approved John Dougherty, Nicole Johnston, Susan McClain, Polly Page and Joshua Reddell for the five citizen positions.

At least two of those citizen appointees — Dougherty and Page — have connections to the oil and gas industry, but to different ends. Page, a former Aurora city councilwoman — is the chair of Arapahoe Responsible Energy Advocates (AREA), which educates residents on the benefits of fracking. Dougherty, who spent about 40 years working in oil and gas engineering, is also a spokesman for Aurora Citizens for Responsible Energy (ACRE), which has taken a cautious approach toward drilling and urged for more transparency when it comes to companies looking to take out well permits in Aurora.

Further adding some balance to the mix on the citizen side was the appointment of Johnston, a resident of Aurora’s Adonea subdivision near E-470 and Sixth Avenue who has been outspoken about drilling work by ConocoPhillips in the area.

The three industry appointees selected Monday night were geologist James Rogers, ConocoPhillips surface land team lead Maxwell Blair and Halliburton employee Gregory Guyer.

The three surface/mineral owner appointees — none of whom were interviewed in February along with the other applicants — were real estate developer Marc Cooper, Phillips 66 real estate professional Chad Polak and Bruce Rau of Oakwood Homes, who served on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s 19-member oil and gas task force in recent years and works in land acquisition and government relations for the homebuilder. Oakwood Homes has about 3,000 acres in Aurora that could be impacted by drilling.

The panel is only advisory, and city council will still decide whatever issues on drilling and fracking it can that are not reserved by the state.

The terms for each of the committee appointments will be three years, and members will be limited to a maximum of three consecutive terms.

The desire for an oil and gas committee grew as the debate over energy exploration across Colorado grew in recent years. Drilling for oil and natural gas across Colorado were at record levels until a sharp drop in the price of crude in the past year, with many operators slashing jobs across the state and the U.S. rig count at an all-time low as of last week.

Aurora had an informal oil and gas committee since 2012 but agreed to change its structure amid protests from east Aurora residents over the potential for more fracking near their homes.