Standing on energy |

Standing on energy

Udall, Salazar visit Craig power plant

Collin Smith

— After U.S. Rep. Mark Udall finished an hourlong tour of the Tri-State power plant in Craig, two workers felt like they had to come out and shake his hand.

“I’m voting for the man,” Mark Lehmann said afterward. “I think he’s a decent man.”

Lehmann, who has worked with Tri-State for 18 years, approached Udall with colleague Ron Geary, himself a seven-year employee at the power plant.

Their professions don’t put them at odds with the congressman, who is reaching the finale of a bid for Colorado’s open U.S. Senate seat against Republican Bob Schaffer.

Although Udall and fellow U.S. Rep. John Salazar – also a Colorado Democrat – have been targeted by some as being anti-energy because of their pro-renewable energy platforms, Lehmann said they have the right plans for America.

Salazar is running as the incumbent for Colorado’s Third U.S. Congressional District against Republican Wayne Wolf.

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“I think renewable energy is a major facet” in America’s energy future, he said, adding it is “on the horizon” and a positive step for the country.

Udall and Salazar said their energy development positions are based on the wishes of Colorado’s long-standing residents.

“I know that we have a big demand for energy production, but the biggest problem is that we represent the people that have been here for generation after generation after generation,” Salazar said. “These are the people who are coming to us and saying, ‘We want to make sure we can go up there and hunt and fish. We don’t want our streams polluted. We don’t mind energy development, but let’s do it in the right way, because once the energy companies move out, we’re staying here.'”

Both men supported a plan this summer from Gov. Bill Ritter, also a Democrat, to suspend drilling on the Roan Plateau and introduce a phased process. The governor’s proposal would have left certain wildlife habitats and other areas considered more fragile for last until after companies drilled all other places.

At the time, Udall and Salazar were criticized for holding up development, as the governor’s plan came out shortly before the Bureau of Land Management planned an auction for leasing rights across the Roan Plateau.

Supporters for drilling said the BLM’s plan – to lease all the acreage at once, including some areas on top of the plateau – came out of 10 or more years of discussion and there needn’t be further negotiation.

In the end, the BLM rejected the governor’s plan and went ahead with its planned auction.

Udall and Salazar said they are not anti-energy. They have and will continue to advocate for development that works around Colorado’s other natural resources – wildlife and wildlife habitat – as well as to push industry to become more environmentally conscious.

Concerning the Roan Plateau, Udall said his philosophy would apply to Vermillion Basin in Moffat County, as well.

Phased leasing that leaves crucial habitat areas untouched until they are needed and shifts development from one location to another not only helps wildlife adapt and survive, but akso results in more money for Colorado residents, Udall said.

“Fascinatingly enough, this great leasing plan, we were told we were going to get $2 billion,” he said. “We got about $100 million. If you develop that gas in the right way, it becomes more and more valuable. It’s a finite resource. Between listening to people out here wanting to protect their futures and wildlife and getting the best return on our investment, I think we’re on the right side of this.”

For those beliefs, he has at least two votes in Moffat County.