Officials disagree on policy making

Local, state reps deal with communication issues

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At its Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Awarded a vehicle bid to Craig Ford for three, three-quarter ton pickup trucks for the Road and Bridge Department totaling $59,010. The bid was not the lowest, which came from Freemont Motors out of Wyoming, but the Commission felt the travel distance required for any maintenance outweighed the price difference.

• Awarded a bid to Municipal and Contractor's Equipment Co., for a snow blower for the Road and Bridge Department totaling $121,620. It was the only bid received.

• Approved a tax abatement for Colowyo Coal Co. The valuation was in error, said Jennifer Riley, Moffat County Assessor's Office chief appraiser. Colowyo Coal will receive about a $4,500 refund.

• Appointed Melody Villard to the Moffat County Tourism Association board. A now former member had not appeared at a meeting in more than six months and had not responded to correspondence, board president Tammie Thompson-Booker said.

• Found the company hired to construct a temporary motor-grader barn, Western Slope Erectors, in debt to the county for $5,238.62.

Road and Bridge officials wanted the barn to shelter equipment from damaging winter conditions after the County Shop burned last year.

Western Slope Erectors failed to meet deadline requirements, and so was charged a $1,000 a day penalty for nine days.

The Moffat County Commission and a representative from Gov. Bill Ritter's office disagreed that state authorities do not include local officials in energy development plans.

That became apparent after Christina Currie, Craig Chamber of Commerce executive director, appeared at the Commission's meeting Tuesday and recapped last week's meetings between state officials and members of Western Slope chambers.

Chamber representatives from Craig, Grand Junction and Fruita drove to Denver on March 6 and met with several state officials, including Harris Sherman, Colorado Department of Natural Resources director, and Ritter.

The Commission's loudest responses to Currie's meeting coverage concerned energy development regulations.

Commission members have said publicly Ritter is trying to halt energy development in Colorado.

Moffat County Commissioner Saed Tayyara said it is difficult to relate with Ritter's administration, which includes Sherman, because of its tendency to make its own rules.

"The governor and Sherman are misleading the public," Tayyara said. "Guess what, they walk in and say we are going to make our own policies."

That is not the case, Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said.

It is always Ritter's intent to work with local authorities on any issue, he said.

"He feels it is important to spend as much time as possible with different groups," Dreyer said. "It's part of who he is."

Dreyer added that Ritter makes a priority of meeting Northwest Colorado leaders when he visits the area, and those leaders are welcome to meet with the governor when they are in Denver, also.

As an example, Ritter met with the Mountain Mayors - a group of mayors along Interstate 70 from Aspen to Parachute - in Rifle last month to discuss drilling on the Roan Plateau, Dreyer said, and with the Moffat County Commission when he visited Craig last fall.

However, "there's always room for greater communication," he added.

It's also important to note, he said, that communication doesn't mean the governor will automatically change his mind on an issue.

"It's absolutely important to provide that input," Dreyer said. "While that input is important and valuable, it doesn't mean that an opinion will change the governor's mind on any one topic."

Currie said at last week's meeting with Ritter, he became upset when audience members questioned by what authority he halted energy development at Vermillion Basin.

Ritter said he had not made any decisions regarding energy exploration on the Roan Plateau or the Vermillion Basin but had recommended state officials should take their time before opening either area to commercial leasing.

Currie said the meeting started with a "contentious" air, before the audience asked any questions.

"The group felt more like his adversaries than his constituents," Currie said.

Dreyer, who also attended the meeting with Western Slope chamber members, said his impression was that negative feelings were from an isolated group and not the entire group.

"I think the premise of the questions (from that group) were adversarial in nature," Dreyer said. "It was asking the same question over and over, maybe just trying to express concern and anger instead of asking a question."

Diane Schwenke, Grand Junction Chamber president and chief executive officer, said although her organization feels like Ritter's administration has not considered Western Slope constituent and energy industry opinion as much as it should have concerning energy development, she was grateful for the opportunity to address Ritter and Sherman.

"Do I think there were any major policy changes as a result of this meeting? That I doubt," Schwenke said. "But, I think the fact both of them gave their time to come down and address us face-to-face is a really positive step.

"These aren't sound bite issues. It's really important that everyone is heard and that those at the state level make themselves available."

Oil and gas dispute

Also on Tuesday, the Commission signed a letter to the Conservation Commission expressing concern about its proposed rule changes to comply with new state legislation on energy leases.

Last fall, the Colorado Legislature passed House Bills 1298 and 1341, which mandate the Department of Natural Resources agencies include wildlife and public health issues when reviewing energy leases. Part of the legislation also requires Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials to be named to the Conservation Commission.

The Conservation Commission released a pre-draft of rule changes late last year, which the Moffat County commissioners directed their letter toward.

Specific rules outlined in the pre-draft include allowing neighboring landowners to have a voice in energy leases on adjoining private property and allowing the state to review leases on private property.

Moffat County commissioners said they thought the proposed rule changes violated private property rights. They also criticized the Conservation Commission for not including much feedback from energy-producing counties and energy industry representatives.

The proposed new rules make it seem as if the state has to watch the people on the Western Slope, Commissioner Tom Gray said.

"And it kind of casts us as these rednecks who are just going to rip and tear," he said. "No one wants to see sage-grouse extinct. No one thinks that is a good thing."

The Conservation Commission plans to have a revised draft out by the end of March, and subsequent comment hearings from March 24 to 28 in Denver, said Deb Fraizer, Colorado Department of Natural Resources communication director.

As of now, it does not look like there will be comment hearings on the Western Slope, Fraizer added.

Comments

taxslave 6 years, 5 months ago

The production of an oil field was announced on Saturday by Marathon Oil. It's as large as Saudi Arabia. It engulfs the entire state of North Dakota, top part of S. Dakota and the Eastern part of Montana. It's the Bakken Oil Field, twice the size of the oil field on the slope of Alaska and Marathon Offices will be in Dickensin, ND.

I suggest that all involved in the development of any sort of energy read the new Energy Bill passed by Congress recently. They've put so much regulation on everything it's unbelievable. There will be no new coal fired power plants. A permit was issued for one "green" coal fired power plant that states were allowed to bid on. Colorado is not one of them.

When everyone get's mad enough perhaps you can call our well-paid representatives in Washington and start speaking up. White House switchboard 202-224-3121. I'm sure Joal in Senator Allards offices would love to hear from all of you. Heck, they hijacked Yampa Valley Electic didn't they. So much for our refund checks.

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CindyLou 6 years, 5 months ago

I have heard of these "as large as Suadi Arabia's fields" before. Saudi is a completely unique circumstance to have that type of oil in that abundant of supply. I find it hard to believe that they are just discovering a field that big in the United States.

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grannyrett 6 years, 5 months ago

With all the technology they have, the oil companies know where the oil is, and how much there is. They know all that before they ever start to drill. They aren't going to stick all that money down a dry hole.

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