Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley

Tracee Bentley.

Tracee Bentley, the founding executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council, has been hired to run an industry organization based in the energy-rich Permian Basin.

The San Luis Valley native takes over on March 18 as CEO of the Permian Strategic Partnership, a civic-minded consortium formed by 20 leading fossil fuel producers active in the nation's most productive oil field, which covers much of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

Bentley said in a statement that she's thrilled to advance the group's "noble mission."

“The Permian is poised to provide energy the world needs, create tens of thousands of local jobs, and generate billions in state and local tax revenues," she said. "But industry recognizes the need to also address significant infrastructure challenges and to preserve the quality of life that makes so many want to live and work here. I can think of no better purpose, and I look forward to the challenging and rewarding work ahead."

RELATED: Q&A with Tracee Bentley | From farm kid to energy advocate

The organization she'll be heading has pledged $100 million to help local communities deal with impacts from the shale oil and gas boom. The group says it intends to tackle issues including regional transportation, schools, affordable housing, health care and job training.

Former Commerce Secretary Don Evans, the partnership's chairman, said Bentley comes aboard at a "pivotal point" for the Permian Strategic Partnership, which announced its formation late last year.

“Tracee is a dynamic leader with a great deal of energy experience and a track record of successful coalition building, and I have no doubt that she will bring both the experience and passion to represent our organization and partner with our community leaders," he said in a written statement.

The companies involved in the partnership are Anadarko, Apache, BPX Energy, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Cimarex, Concho, Devon, Diamondback, Encana, Endeavor, EOG Resources, Halliburton, Occidental Petroleum, Parsley Energy, Pioneer, Plains All American, Schlumberger, Shell and XTO Energy.

RELATED: Bentley encouraging more women to consider oil and gas industry

Bentley spent the last four years advocating for the oil and gas industry as head of the Colorado Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute. Before that, she was legislative director for Gov. John Hickenlooper and ran the Colorado Energy Office. She was also a senior advisor to the governor on energy and rural affairs.

Last year, Bentley spearheaded industry opposition to Proposition 112, an unsuccessful Colorado ballot initiative critics warned could grind the state's oil and gas production to a halt.

Rolf Hanson, vice president of state government relations at the American Petroleum Institute, hailed Bentley as a rising star in the industry and called her "the natural gas and oil industry’s foremost voice in Colorado."

"We admire and applaud her commitment to partnerships and communities, passion for rural issues, and unique ability to build bridges across the aisle on the importance of natural gas and oil to Colorado and other related priority issues," Hanson said in a statement.

He said API will hire a new executive director for its Colorado operation.

Bentley earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Colorado State University in Fort Collins after growing up on a family farm and attending high school in Buena Vista. While in school, she worked in Washington, D.C., for U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis and U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

Before she went to work for the state, Bentley ran a lobbying firm devoted to energy, natural resources and agricultural matters. She also served as director of national affairs for the Colorado Farm Bureau.

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