Wyoming oil and gas supervisor Tom Doll has resigned, Gov. Matt Mead announced late Thursday, slightly more than a week after Doll came under fire for remarks about some residents and a federal water investigation in west-central Wyoming.
Doll, who oversees the regulation of all oil and natural gas operations in the state, said those in the Pavillion area with water concerns possibly tied to natural gas drilling were motivated by greed, and he strongly criticized a federal investigation of the water complaints.
The governor’s office swiftly disavowed his comments and Doll later apologized for his remarks, made at a meeting of state oil and gas regulators in Canada on June 5. Now, he’ll step down from the powerful supervisor position, a job he’s held since 2009.
Doll submitted his resignation Thursday and the governor “agreed it was in the best interest of the state,” said Mead spokesman Renny MacKay. Doll’s resignation will be effective July 3.
“I appreciate Tom’s work and his depth of knowledge on oil and gas matters,” Mead said in a statement. “He has extensive experience in the energy field and has demonstrated a commitment to the Oil and Gas Commission. I appreciate his service and wish him the best. With Tom’s resignation we will immediately begin the process of searching for a new supervisor.”
Asked whether Doll volunteered or was asked for his resignation, MacKay said beyond what had already been said there would be no comment on personnel matters. A call and email to the supervisor weren’t returned.
For those in Pavillion who were outraged by his comment, the decision was a good one, regardless of who made it. John Fenton, chairman of the Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens called the decision “the appropriate thing to do.”
“I can’t say I’m sad to see him go, because I really don’t think the people of Wyoming had an advocate there,” he said. “The oil and gas industry had an excellent advocate, but he didn’t represent the people worth a damn.”
But Doll will be missed, said John Robitaille, vice president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, the state’s oil and gas industry trade group. He called the resignation unfortunate and said he wished the former supervisor well.
“I’m certainly disappointed to see him go,” Robitaille said. “I won’t begin to speculate as to if they have someone that will be a good replacement for him, but you know, the things that Tom did when he was in the position were really sometimes quite controversial and I think he handled himself very well. We’re disappointed things worked out the way they did, but that’s just the way it is.”
Doll’s comments at an Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, as first reported June 6 by energy news publication EnergyWire, quickly drew fire.
“I really believe greed is driving a lot of this,” Doll was reported to have said, referring to the residents near Pavillion who have complained about their water. “I think they’re just looking to be compensated.”
Doll criticized their quest for answers about their foul-smelling water, and he slammed the Environmental Protection Agency’s investigation in the area, calling it politically motivated.
In a draft report released in December, the EPA tentatively linked the oil and gas industry practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to the well contamination found in the agency’s testing. Beset by criticism of its testing by industry and Wyoming officials, the agency later agreed to additional well testing. Results are expected later this year.
Doll’s comment as reported in EnergyWire took the governor’s office by surprise. Mead’s office quickly drafted a response calling Doll’s comments not in line with the administration’s policy. “The comments made by Mr. Doll are contrary to the governor’s expectation,” MacKay said on June 6. Mead was then in China attending a conference on coal technology.
A few hours later, Doll issued a statement apologizing for what he called his “ inappropriate and inconsiderate remarks.”
Mead returned from China on Monday. On Tuesday, Doll participated in the monthly oil and gas commission meeting as usual. That day, Doll told news website WyoFile he intended to remain as supervisor and he stood by his apology, site editor Dustin Bleizeffer reported in a Twitter post.
Two days later Doll resigned, announced by Mead in his first comment on the situation since returning to this country.