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DENVER (AP) — Colorado's top oil and gas regulator is stepping down to take a job with an energy consulting company, the state announced Tuesday.
Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Director Matt Lepore is resigning on March 4 after more than five years in the job.
Lepore will become legal counsel and strategic adviser for Adamantine Energy in Denver. Adamantine says its expertise includes working with energy companies dealing with regulators, activists, investors and others.
Lepore is at least the second consecutive commission director to leave for a job with ties to the industry. Dave Neslin, the director in 2007-2012, went to work for the Davis Graham & Stubbs law firm, whose clients include energy companies.
Lepore's new job dismayed Leslie Robinson, chairwoman of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, a western Colorado group that advocates for greater distances between wells and homes and other steps to protect the quality of life of communities near oil and gas.
"I thought in a way Matt stabbed us in the back," she said. "He'll be working to help industry fight citizen activism."
Lepore said he won't be working solely for the industry. He said the company seeks to resolve disputes with advocates for public safety and environmental protection.
He acknowledged energy companies have to change the way they do things. "These are real challenges," he said in an interview. "You have to address them. That doesn't mean you have to steamroll them."
As director, Lepore oversaw a staff of 110, which enforced rules approved by the nine-member commission, mostly appointed by the governor. During his tenure, the commission wrote new rules governing pipelines and required energy companies to consult with local governments about locating wells.
His time as director saw activists and others demand more protection for public safety and the environment. The issue is contentious because fast-growing cities in Colorado's Front Range urban corridor are overlapping with below-ground oil and gas reserves.
Last April, natural gas seeping from a severed pipeline seeped into a nearby house and exploded, killing two people, injuring a third and destroying the home. That led the commission to adopt a new set of rules, a process completed last week.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat and former petroleum geologist, said Lepore had one of the most demanding jobs in state government.
"Matt always put safeguarding public safety and the environment first," Hickenlooper said in a written statement. "Under his leadership, Colorado developed regulations that have been used as models across the country."
Asked about concerns Lepore's new position involves the industry he regulated, Hickenlooper said Adamantine Energy works to maintain industry standards.
"He is at the forefront of working through some of the thorniest natural resource issues we deal with in Colorado, and he has done so in a hands-on, collaborative way — talking with stakeholders, finding common ground, forging compromise," Hickenlooper said.
Randy Ahrens, mayor of the Denver suburb of Broomfield, said Lepore was accessible and responsive as Broomfield struggled with oil and gas development. He credited Lepore with improvements on inspections and monitoring provisions on the new pipeline rules.
"He did his job pretty well based on the constraints that he has," Ahrens said.
Lepore's successor will be Julie Murphy, currently assistant director for energy and minerals at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
This story has been corrected to show Lepore's resignation was announced Tuesday, not Monday.
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