Wyoming hires Mark Watson as oil and gas supervisor

— May 13, 2014

The governing body of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) today unanimously approved hiring 32-year WOGCC veteran Mark Watson as its new supervisor.

Watson was a finalist in the state’s 2012-13 search for a supervisor. Watson served as interim supervisor since the April 1 departure of Grant Black who had served just barely a year on the job. Watson was lead petroleum engineer for the WOGCC. He has a degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Wyoming.

“I know him (Watson) to be a very qualified and capable person,” said WOGCC commissioner Mark Doelger.

Gov. Matt Mead’s office issued a press release just minutes after the commission approved the hire. “Mark is creating needed stability and continuity while staying on top of efforts to implement the model baseline water rule, tackling our aggressive plan for abandoned wells and moving ahead with a revision of the setback rule. I appreciate that he is willing to take on this important leadership role over the long-term,” Mead said in the prepared statement.

The commission today also announced that it will create a new position, deputy supervisor, to help take on the growing workload at the WOGCC. Past supervisors have warned that about half of the WOGCC staff is eligible for retirement. The state is still in the hunt for candidates for the deputy supervisor position. Doelger said the deputy supervisor position will in no way diminish the authority of the supervisor.

In his prepared press statement Gov. Mead, who serves on the WOGCC commission, said, “The agency is doing a lot right now and I believe a deputy can help with the workload and allow the OGCC to be more proactive with citizens.”

In an action related to that statement, the commission today formally denied a citizens’ petition brought forth nearly a year ago by the Powder River Basin Resource Council, asking the WOGCC to step up efforts to curb flaring of natural gas, increase minimum setback requirements from homes and other establishments, and to increase minimum fines for various violations of WOGCC rules and regulations.

WOGCC commissioner Bridget Hill brought the matter before the commission this morning, noting that no formal action had been taken regarding the citizens’ petition for almost an entire year.

“The denial doesn’t mean that we don’t believe the rules are important,” Hill said. “We’re going to start at the commission level and start on those (potential rule revisions) ourselves.”

Powder River Basin Resource Council organizer Jill Morrison said she wasn’t surprised with the decision today to deny the petition, and said she saw the petition filing as a successful effort to push the WOGCC into finally taking some formal action to review outdated rules. Morrison told WyoFile that several citizens are preparing to bring their complaints to the WOGCC to keep pressure on the agency to revise its rules.

— Dustin Bleizeffer is WyoFile editor-in-chief. He has covered energy and natural resource issues in Wyoming for 15 years. You can reach him at (307) 267-3327 or email dustin@wyofile.com. Follow Dustin on Twitter at @DBleizeffer

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Dustin Bleizeffer

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 22 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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  1. I always get a chuckle when some Sagebrush Rebel or states rights advocate claims that local and state governments are more attentive to the needs of local citizens than the federal government. Fact is, local and state governments are far more attentive to the needs of the minerals/oil/gas industries. Since Wyoming is an energy colony, what else do you expect?

    Indeed, Wyoming is nothing more than a political oligarchy masquerading as a republic. People don’t count.

    RH

  2. Surprise, surprise, the WOGCC denied the citizen’s petition for more stringent rules on flaring – after sitting on the request for almost a year.

    Governor Mead told the citizens to go pound sand last year and I guess this is his formal notice. At the rate change is being driven by State Officials, don’t expect anything anytime soon to come about from the WOGCC. See the Gov’s quote from last June below:

    “Asked for his reaction to the citizens’ petition, Gov. Matt Mead told reporters, “My view is changes in rules and regulations should be driven by the commission (Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission), or by this office.” Mead added that citizens have an opportunity to comment on any rule changes, but that the changes should be driven by state officials.”