Moffat County commission addresses BLM plan
Residents voice range of opinions on Vermillion Basin development
July 7, 2010
In other action, the Moffat County Commission:
• Approved, 3-0, payroll warrants ending June 26 totaling $421,498.82.
• Approved, 3-0, a contract renewal for the Section 8 Housing Voucher program through 2011.
• Approved, 3-0, a special event liquor license for the Wyman Museum for the Colorado State BBQ Championship for Aug. 27 and 28.
• Denied, 3-0, a petition for abatement from Ruben May on the 2009 evaluation of his land.
• Approved, 3-0, a final settlement for Behrman Construction for construction of Loudy-Simpson Park soccer field restrooms totaling $72,822.05.
• Approved, 3-0, to go into executive session with county attorney Jeremy Snow and natural resources director Jeff Comstock to receive legal advice regarding Griffin-Hadden v. Moffat County.
There was standing room only in the Moffat County Commission chambers Tuesday morning as the commission addressed a recent proposal regarding energy development in Vermillion Basin.
About 20 residents attended the meeting to voice concerns or praise the Bureau of Land Management's recent decision to close Vermillion Basin to energy development as part of its proposed resource management plan.
During the meeting, the commission approved, 3-0, a letter to the public, which outlined reasons the commission supports a 1-percent natural gas drilling management plan in the 77,000-acre basin.
According to the letter, the 1-percent plan was agreed upon by several cooperating agencies before the BLM's June 29 announcement that it would seek to close the basin to energy development.
The letter states that, despite previous efforts taken by the commission to find a balance of "environmental concerns" and "economic opportunities," the original compromise reached was "set aside in favor of the extreme viewpoint."
The commission also states the decision was "entirely due to political reasons."
"Special interests (that) did not want to find a compromise nor consensus between building an economy while simultaneously protecting environmental values in Vermillion Basin continued to be vocal," the commission wrote in the letter.
The letter states the commission is "astounded" by federal and state administrations not wanting to use the originally proposed 1-percent plan for development.
"The Moffat County Commission continues to support a balanced land management approach in Vermillion Basin, one that provides environmental protection while simultaneously encouraging economic opportunities," the commission wrote in the letter.
The letter also includes estimates from the BLM, which indicate there may be 200 billion cubic feet of recoverable gas in Vermillion Basin.
The commission, as it writes in the letter, thinks that amount of natural gas would "conservatively" translate to $700 million of resources, $25.6 million of which could go to Moffat County taxing districts.
Commissioner Tom Mathers said the 1-percent drilling plan in the basin was "fair and balanced."
"We've got to have jobs," he said during the meeting. "We try to balance that act and you can't do away with all of our natural resources and have people say, 'Hey, this is all fine but not in our area' and survive. We are going to end up (with) no town at all."
The commissioners heard several comments from the audience before approving its letter Tuesday.
Craig resident Bernie Rose said he enjoys living in Moffat County because of the areas of undisturbed land. However, Rose said oil and gas developments would leave "scars on the land."
"This oil company or any oil company, that comes into the area will disturb it and we will never see them fix it," he said during the meeting. "It's impossible for them to fix it and that is the bottom line."
Rose also spoke to the "special beauty" contained in Vermillion Basin.
"Like the sunrises, the purples and reds and peach-colored skies," he said. "The moonlight at nighttime, it is just incredible out there. And they're going to go out and stick up an oil well."
Craig resident Burt Clements said the basin has no use for wildlife.
"It's a moonscape, there is nothing there," he said.
Clements said the 1-percent drilling wouldn't hurt the area considering recla-
"The federal government, local government and environmentalists want to run this county out of business so they can control the whole thing and shut everything down," he said.
Luke Schafer, Colorado Environmental Coalition's northwest campaign coordinator, said Vermillion Basin is a "special place."
"While I might be an environmentalist, and the tree hugger in the community, I also live here," he said. "This is my home and I do want the best for Moffat County. That is my hope as well.
"I think personally protecting Vermillion Basin gets us to a place where Moffat County is going to thrive because of protecting places like that."
Former Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele called the BLM's decision "dirty politics."
"It's the same kind of deal we have been running into on a lot of other things in this country," he said. "… Ninety percent of the people at least in Moffat County don't want this, 'You don't want it, but we think you need it, so we are going to give it to you anyway.'"