County commissioner traveling to D.C. to lobby counties’ concerns |

County commissioner traveling to D.C. to lobby counties’ concerns

Brian Smith

Tom Gray

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said the trip he will take starting Friday is part of the county's goal to be more proactive on the state and federal levels.

"It kind of fits under that banner of an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure," he said. "Once things are active and once things start down a road, it is a lot harder to get things stopped than it is just to keep them from getting started."

Gray will travel to Washington, D.C., as part of a trip organized by Colorado Counties, Inc., to represent and discuss issues agreed upon by the organization's members with federal lawmakers.

CCI is a statewide, membership lobbying organization for all of Colorado's 64 counties, Gray said.

Gray was elected from a pool of about 120 commissioners to be one of eight representatives on CCI's public lands steering committee. Other CCI committees and members will also travel with the organization for the conference, which starts Saturday and continues through March 9.

CCI will foot the bill for Gray to attend the conference, he said. The commissioner also said he would stay for a few days after the conference for a personal vacation to see the nation's capitol with family, which he will pay for himself.

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Throughout the conference at the nation's capitol, the commissioner will sit in on various meetings and conferences with legislators and their staff to discuss a wide variety of issues including land use and natural resources.

However, Gray said CCI voted to organize its priorities into six specific issues.

Among those issues include directions to oppose unfunded federal mandates, support full funding for the payment in lieu of taxes program through 2012 and support a multi-year transportation authorization bill that identifies a "sustainable" revenue source to support highway and transit projects.

Also identified are directions to support adequate funding for the forest service for habitat improvements, bark beetle and fire mitigation work, as well as supporting federal legislation allowing for "greater flexibility" in the use of federal entitlement funds supporting child welfare services.

The last item CCI will lobby for is of particular interest and importance to Gray, he said.

That directive is to support the use of federal funding and incentives for clean coal technologies.

Gray said he was enthused about the opportunity to be proactive and speak on behalf of Colorado's counties on clean coal research at a federal level.

"The message is that we are moving to cleaner energy … let's make sure the playing field is level and not pedestal one fuel over another," he said. "If there are going to be projects or research done on alternative fuels, let's make sure we give coal an equal chance to meet air quality guidelines.

"We are helping others, let's make sure that we are helping them."

Gray said clean coal is something the county commission also discussed with Gov. John Hickenlooper during a one-on-one meeting last month.

"The governor talked about clean coal technology demonstration projects … but we need to be proactive because we have clean coal and we know how important that is to our community," he said.

Although Gray is representing CCI at the conference, he said when he can find time between sessions, he would try to communicate other issues to lawmakers both from Northwest Colorado and the Western Slope.

Such issues include a recent proposal from the Bureau of Land Management to identify and list lands with wilderness characteristics as "wild lands," which many think could jeopardize multiple use lands and energy development across the nation.

"I certainly will try my best to talk to as many people as I can about the whole wild lands initiative and have our stance heard on that," he said. "However, as a part of the CCI committee, when speaking for CCI, I will focus on those six points that all of the counties in Colorado chose as their priorities."

The bottom line, Gray said, is that those issues deemed important by CCI, such as clean coal, need to be articulated and heard to "move the ball in that direction."

"It is really hard to measure … and you may not see the results for a while," he said. "But, absolutely I think the best-case scenario is that our representatives at the federal level know that as counties — and not just one county, but as a nation — counties are opposed to unfunded mandates … The western counties are emphasizing how important payment in lieu of taxes are to being able to maintain services.

"The bottom line is that you have a voice and you are there. The power goes to those who show up."

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In other news

At its regular Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 3-0, transfer of payment of warrants for the month of February totaling $195,883.40.

• Approved, 3-0, payment of payroll warrants ending Feb. 19 totaling $675,774.84.

• Approved, 3-0, Colorado State Forest Service cooperator resource rate form.

• Approved, 3-0, an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Craig and Moffat County to provide use of optical scanners at $500 per scanner and to provide personnel services from the Moffat County Clerk and Recorder’s office for Craig’s municipal election April 5.

• Approved, 3-0, a resolution amending resolution 2010-18 and establishing fees and rates for various county departments.

• Approved, 3-0, to allow Geokinetics to delay the start of seismic testing and to amend a conditional use permit for the company to conduct testing from April 15 through Sept. 31 on frozen or dry ground with land owner permission. The conditional use permit also stipulates the company will reclaim damage to land with fair settlements to land owners.

• Heard a presentation from GIS specialist Mike Dinwiddie of Rio Blanco County about a mapping project partnership in Moffat County. No action was taken.

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