Moffat County Commission discusses Vermillion plan |

Moffat County Commission discusses Vermillion plan

Brian Smith

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said he has a clear idea of how the efforts of local entities that developed the 1-percent drilling plan for Vermillion Basin should be viewed.

Gray contends they are on the "moral high ground" for reaching a "balanced approach" to managing drilling in the area.

But, several months after the Bureau of Land Management proposed keeping Vermillion closed to natural gas drilling in its resource management plan, Gray said many have raised eyebrows at the integrity of the decision.

At its regular Tuesday meeting, the county commission discussed two letters written in opposition of the plan — one from the BLM's Northwest Resource Advisory Council and another from U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo.

The letters, Gray contends, are recent example of people speaking out against the "top-down" approach to managing the 77,000-acre basin.

In mid-August, the RAC wrote a letter to BLM Northwest Colorado district manager Jamie Connell opposing the decision to close Vermillion Basin to drilling.

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The letter states the RAC "has a long history of supporting locally-driven planning processes" and supports local management proposals "rather than top-down Washington orders for federal land management."

In the letter, the group wrote the decision to not allow 1-percent drilling at one time in Vermillion, as previously proposed, "undermines any value in the collaborative process."

The RAC requested the BLM not issue a record of decision on the no-drilling plan for Vermillion Basin, and supports the 1-percent drilling plan in Vermillion.

Gray said the letter from the RAC was "significant" for several reasons.

"That board is paid a lot of attention to because it is diverse, and it's appointed by the Secretary (of Interior) himself," he said. "So they have a lot of influence, or they should have. The secretary pays a lot of attention to when the board makes recommendations, a little different than county commissioners or whatever because … it's his board."

The county commission also wrote a letter opposing BLM's decision to ban drilling in Vermillion in early July.

Commissioner Audrey Danner presented the letter, which contained estimates on the impacts of the no-drilling plan, to Salazar in a meeting in mid-July.

Salazar then wrote a letter to BLM Director Bob Abbey requesting he reconsider the decision to ban drilling and reconsider a compromise, instead.

Salazar wrote in his letter Aug. 26 that he agreed with the commission, that barring drilling in Vermillion Basin "is not in the best economic interest of the county."

"I understand the importance of protecting the environmental values of the Vermillion Basin, but find equally important the detrimental economic impact this decision will have on a region that is so reliant on revenues derived from responsible extraction of natural gas," Salazar wrote in the letter.

Gray said he was pleased Salazar wrote the letter.

"When you … can make a rational case for your point of view, that's commendable that he takes notice and acts upon it," he said.

Danner said she was "very pleased" Salazar "understood that this was of importance to Moffat County."

Danner also appreciates residents voicing support of the public process, she said.

"Asking citizens to do the hard work, spending their personal time learning about an issue and making decisions as part of a collaborative process, I want to continue to honor that," she said. "If we uphold those decisions and are part of the discussions with them, citizens can make a difference in our community."

Also at the meeting

In other news, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 3-0, meeting minutes from March 16, April 6, June 1 and 15, July 6 and 27, and Aug. 17.

• Approved, 3-0, payroll warrants ending Aug. 21 totaling $430,212.63.

• Approved, 3-0, voided warrants for August for $956.36.

• Approved, 3-0, transfer of payment of warrants for August totaling $338,592.67.

• Approved, 3-0, special payroll warrants ending Aug. 30 totaling $831.15.

• Approved, 3-0, a contract for service on the Loudy-Simpson Park Ice Arena with Diversified Thermal Services, Inc. of Anaheim, Calif., not to exceed $3,500.

• Approved, 3-0, an intergovernmental agreement contract with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for public nursing services totaling $35,400 of state and federal funds.

• Approved, 2-1, awarding a bid for repairs to the North Annex roof to Jenison Custom Building for a total of $15,900.

• Approved, 3-0, awarding a bridge decking bid for Custom Structural Steel, Inc., up to $12,920.

• Approved, 3-0, to enter executive session with county attorney Jeremy Snow and Tinneal Gerber of administration regarding the negotiation of the Moffat County Public Safety Center lease and to receive specific legal advice.

• Tabled a bid recommendation for repairs to the Moffat County Public Safety Center roof.

• Heard a county website update from website committee member Jennifer Riley.

• Discussed repairs to the Loudy-Simpson Park Ice Arena equipment.

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