Q&A with Bart Brookman | Colorado exec says 'big oil is big on the environment' | Subscriber-Only Content

Bart Brookman is homegrown talent in Colorado’s oil and gas industry.

The president and CEO of PDC Energy grew up in Monument. His first job was as a ranch hand. 

He received his undergraduate degree in petroleum engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden and his master’s in finance from the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Of all the big shots and success stories he associates with, however, it’s his mother and his kids who inspire him most, Brookman told Colorado Politics.

As if he needed to burnish Colorado credibility, his ever-handy skis and pickup truck leave little doubt where he calls home, he said.

Brookman has led the independent oil and natural gas operation since 2015, after being named chief operating officer in 2013, then president and COO the next year. He joined the Denver-based company as the senior vice president of exploration and production in 2005. Before PDC Energy, he worked for Patina Oil and Gas and its predecessor, Snyder Oil, from 1988 until 2005. He left the company as vice president of operations. 

Brookman currently serves as the board chairman for Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, an advocacy group funded by energy companies to promote the industry and get involved in ballot questions it sees as detrimental or beneficial to one of the state’s top employers and taxpayers.

He has been an advocate for environmental responsibility in his company. PDC Energy released a sustainability report last month that set greenhouse gas and methane emission intensity reduction goals of 60% and 50%, respectively, by 2025, as well as longer-term greenhouse gas and methane emission intensity reductions of 74% and 70%, respectively, by 2030.

The company also aims to eliminate routine “flaring,” the process of burning off oil and gas byproducts, by 2025, accelerating the company’s previous goal.

Colorado Politics put some questions to this oil executive with deep Colorado ties:

Colorado Politics: What is PDC Energy doing to clean up the environment?

Brookman: PDC is the largest Denver-based oil and natural gas operator in Colorado and we take our commitment to community and environmental protection seriously. We recently announced aggressive targets for emissions reductions, committing to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions intensity 60% and our methane emissions intensity 50% by 2025.

CP: How has the industry evolved regarding emissions?

Brookman: There’s been some huge changes in the last five years. At PDC, our goal is to show continuous improvement in emission reduction, year after year. If you have a chance to review our sustainability report, you’ll see that we’ve been focused on reducing emissions for years. We need to do a better job of communicating that to the public. In all honesty, lots of new initiatives are based on new regulations, as well as new available technologies.

There’s also dramatic improvements in disclosures and transparencies. Not just by oil and gas companies, but by all companies. This really helps when the general public wants to compare companies. For example, PDC is pursuing a no flare policy by 2025. I’m really proud that we have zero flaring in the state of Colorado.

We’ve also had dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado and in Texas. I want the public to know that big oil is big on the environment.

CP: The industry has changed a lot in the past couple of years. Can you update us on how much activity there is, how many jobs are supported and its contribution to the economy?

Brookman: It’s no surprise that the pandemic changed everything for just about every industry last year. Since March 2020, Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry lost about 9,000 jobs. On top of that, there were price wars between Russia and Saudi Arabia, and oil prices dropped below zero.

But, energy is the foundation of everything, including our economy, so it’s no surprise that oil prices recovered and are hovering around $60 to $70 a barrel. That’s important because Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry supports about 200,000 jobs, gives $1.2 billion to schools and $675 million for parks and wildlife support. Our industry contributes nearly $20 billion dollars to our state’s economy.

CP: What would you cite as the greatest invention of all time?

Brookman: The printing press.

CP: There’s been somewhat of a ceasefire in the oil and gas wars, a couple of pieces of legislation notwithstanding. What is CRED up to in the interim?

Brookman: CRED stands for Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development. As chairman of CRED’s board, I help support the organization in our mission to educate the general public about the important role that abundant, affordable oil and natural gas plays in our economy and way of life.

We want Coloradans to understand that we share their pride for Colorado’s beauty, its peoples’ communities and its natural resources. We are committed to developing energy responsibly, with respect to environmental and social governance. It’s simply the right thing to do.

CP: Can you expound this ESG thing I keep hearing about from the industry?

Brookman: ESG stands for environmental, social and governance. On Wall Street, many investors are applying these non-financial factors to better understand companies before they make investment decisions.

ESG factors are measures that address how a company protects the planet, how the company engages with its communities, and the diversity of its governing board and workforce. This transparency and accountability is a necessary shift in mentality for any industry, including ours.

From the environmental perspective, companies must show continued improvement in efforts to protect our environment. We must dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with particular focus on methane emissions. We are applying new technologies to make our operation cleaner and safer.

On the social side, our highest priority is to keep our field staff, employees and communities safe. We are also proud of the relationships we have with the communities we operate in, including Weld County and the entire state of Colorado. We nearly doubled our charitable giving budget in 2021, increasing our impact to the organizations providing critical services to Coloradans.

As for governance, we have a board that is aligned with our strategy and with our corporate values. Our board, composed of diverse members with diverse backgrounds, is focused on, supports, and understands ESG.

CP: As a business leader, what is one thing you won’t sacrifice?

Brookman: Safety.

CP: What’s the biggest misconception about the oil and gas industry?

Brookman: That we’re not environmentalists. We have entire teams dedicated to environment health and safety, and it’s the responsibility of all our employees.

FAST FACTS:

What do you usually eat for breakfast? Coffee.

Name one thing you can’t live without. Family … and natural gas.

What’s your go-to karaoke song? You don’t want to go there!

What historical figure would you like to have lunch with? Abe Lincoln.

What is your favorite band of all time? Bruce Springsteen.

Facebook or Twitter? Neither.

The funniest thing you’ve heard from your grandchildren? “Your dog is stinky.”

What do you love most about your job? The collaborative spirit of our team.

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