|Week Thirty-Eight June 09 - 15|
|Entry - 06-10-08
Got word from Denver on the 11th that
the two wells EnCana is drilling to obtain our mineral interest will begin
in a couple of weeks. The development of these wells is over the knoll and
out of line-of-site, so until that pad wraps up and the rig moves to a
different location, I doubt I'll be too keenly privy to any happenings.
|Entry - 06-10-08
|Today is the COGCC hearing in which all final comments (at
least those that I will be able to offer) will be accepted.
I will stand today before the COGCC board and hope to be heard. I will deliver what of this address I can, but with 1000 anticipated speakers, out of courtesy to others - I may only deliver aspects of it. It is here in its entirely below.
Today, I ask the spirits to bless all that are gathered to speak their hearts.
I ask that the spirits stand with me as I deliver this address and do my best to speak their words delivered to my heart and shared through my hand and my voice.
I pray these good people hear not only with their ears - but with the clarity of their hearts.
Update - the comments I had prepared were not delivered at all as I was only given two minutes to speak. Therefore, I delivered them via e-mail in their entirety below.
Thank you for accepting these additional comments regarding the on-going rule making process. I spoke at the COGCC hearing on 06-10-08, and addressed the fact that the COGCC must take a comprehensive and timely account of necessary rule changes, since it has been through a lack of appropriate regulation that industry has been allowed to operate in ways which are counter to the preservation of public health, safety and the environment – including with regard to wildlife. At the hearing Mr. Neslin asked speakers to provide specifics. That was difficult to do in the span of two minutes, but I’ve added my additional commentary in this e-mail in the hopes that it will be considered as a part of the review process. It is quite specific.
You’d think after submitting 16 pages of additional comments to the COGCC, I’d be done commenting by now. But I felt these additional comments may provide information important to your decision-making process.
After visiting with a number of folks associated with industry, reading the paper and participating in the Grand Junction sentinel’s on-line forum recently I’ve gained a renewed perspective that some aspects of the oil and gas industry resist one principal above others that many citizens I’ve also spoken to stand for and support. Accountability.
It seems so obvious to so many of us regular folk living with industry that all that is needed in order for this industry to co-exist with people, wildlife and the environment is a willingness on the part of industry, as an organized economic interest, to be accountable. A large part of that accountability involves acting responsibly and pro-actively - considerately of others in the communities (both rural and otherwise) where they operate. That doesn’t mean throwing P.R. dollars at a city project – like a ball park after the surrounding water supply has been poisoned. Part of that accountability means taking real responsibility for devastation caused in the pursuit of mineral resources – devastation which includes anticipated collateral damage and that which is accidental and unanticipated. As well as that which causes hardship and degradation to people and the environment but which could be avoided by using best practices.
But industry isn’t always proactive. Industry doesn’t always voluntarily implement best practices, and when they create impacts to a community of people or wildlife, or habitat – industry doesn’t always admit fault.
Historically – up until now - the COGCC has allowed that spectacular failure of imagination, innovation and accountability to thrive.
Over the past five years, industry has made and continues to make excuses. Industry whines, complains and even threatens. Industry blames others. Industry tries to shift the direction of the conversation.
The COGCC has been vital partners with industry in irresponsible development during of all things an energy boom, which should have been a signal to implement management practices which act to preserve public health and safety and the environment. Instead, policies that grossly favored and therefore exclusively served industrial and corporate interests have been aggressively protected – limiting the involvement of the Division of wildlife, the involvement of the Department of Public Health and Environment, and essentially resulting in state-sponsored devastation.
Changes have finally been legislated, and now the COGCC must be accountable also.
What began in 2003 as an individual effort became a community effort – one that required the involvement of non profit organizations, media, citizens and elected officials. I do not take lightly the monumental effort and personal sacrifice of myself, my family and many others willing to stand up and speak out that has lead us to this critical juncture in our consideration of how resources will be developed in our state – within our environment, and among our people and our wild populations.
The words I have spoken and am about to speak are not necessarily directed at you - you do not necessarily deserve these words, this public admonishment – but you are in a position to effect positive change, to at long last bring balance and finally distinguish between resource exploitation and conservation. So, I ask you to hear these words as they are intended. For you, they are an account of the suffering which has occurred and continues. And they are an appeal for you to enact change in the interest of the people and the places of Colorado.
A Silent Spring
After the seep in 2004, a combination of environmental toxicity and human activity (in an effort to mitigate damages) lead to a silent spring. We actually experienced what Rachel Carson wrote about in her famous book. And we didn’t have just one, we had two. It has taken over three years for our land to begin to recover. This has been the first year in many that we experienced the extraordinary thrill of songbirds in April. In 2004 and early 2005, after the release of an estimated 115 million cubic feet of methane and other gases released on this and adjacent lands, only turkey vultures and hornets lived here. After a while, even the vultures disappeared. Even the ants left. We spent the next two years trying to reign in the proliferation of hornet nests around our home, where they established colonies along every eave, under the hoods and in the doors of our vehicles, in the birdhouses, under the lid of the grill, under the deck railings, and in many, many other places. This is an example of what happens when wildlife and their fragile interdependence is disrupted.
This year, we signed a mineral lease with EnCana, and out of that process we were able to secure a no-surface use clause. We are fortunate enough to own a small fraction of the mineral wealth beneath our property which allows us this precious opportunity to negotiate such an arrangement. As landowners we believe it is our only viable option in this hostile environment to try and offer real protections to this extraordinary and historically sacred landscape. It is an ancient Ute burial and ceremonial site. But the over-development of adjacent lands diminishes the value of our efforts, just like the air pollution allowed to proliferate in our region diminishes other community’s efforts to curtail their carbon footprint. Air sheds, water sheds, migratory routes, habitat resources…. all of these are what define nature’s boundaries. Nature doesn’t draw straight lines on a map and call it mine and yours. In the real world – it is ours.
Elk and why the 90 day stipulations must remain in the rules.
In particular, I’d like to share with you our experience this winter with the historic herd elk that utilize our lands and adjacent lands as critical range. These lands amount to approximately 1000 acres and are shared among 10 families. The elk use these lands for forage, shelter, calving and water access. Our land, together with that of our neighbors offers a unique, rare and precious combination of meadowlands, creeks and forests – at precisely the right elevation to provide for important winter forage, water, protection from the elements and calving areas. The elk that use this area have done so for generations. Their use is historic and predictable. They bring important nutrients and redistribution of native seed to the soils on the trails they utilize; the calves – 50% of which, under normal circumstances, are lost to predators in the first week of birth, help sustain local populations of cougar, coyote and raptors. Their presence here is a co-evolved and ecologically necessary one.
Yet, as intense development occurs all around us, and mega-pads continue to be enlarged to accommodate more and more wells, the value of our land is diminished because large animals require greater land areas than our 60 acres can provide. Animals like bear and cougar and deer all require a much larger range than 60 acres, which, despite the no-surface use protections we were able to secure, renders our land much less valuable as habitat than it would otherwise be as a part of a larger and necessary contiguous range.
Our deer herds have diminished to perhaps 15 to 20% of what they were post-industrial development. Although deer are not as skittish around development as are elk, it is because of this that they also suffer. On “Week 28” of my blog, journeyoftheforsaken.com you can see photos of an entire herd that was killed because of their reluctance to alter their migration and range habits near a thoroughfare used heavily by industry.
Elk will alter their patterns – but to what detriment? This winter I saw the cow elk watch from the cedars across the road from the Schwartz site and their traditional calving grounds, as EnCana pushed dirt around, ever-enlarging a pad site that may eventually be reclaimed and offer forage value – but for now and the next perhaps forty years will remain barren and accessed by work-over rigs, trucks and heavy equipment. I watched the splinter herd make their final exodus from the valley into the high country this spring and did not see a single calf among their number of approximately thirty to forty.
What happened to this year’s generation? Did the cows, abort them? Abandon them? Re-absorb them? Never conceive them? Despite repeated requests to DOW and BLM to study this historic herd and their habitat in this increasingly and densely developed federal unit – none have ever been conducted. Why? It’s almost as if no one wants to know the truth. So people turn suspicion into speculation which serves a personal agenda. Why are such studies pursued elsewhere where impacts may be less obvious to discern? It is painfully clear that the large herd animals where I live are suffering from deprivation and associated stresses.
Despite what industry may like you to believe, they suffer. And I suffer with them. Our wild environment defines me spiritually, not the constructs of human activity. Not the selfish drives of humanity and their endless attempts to categorize, control and make convenient the natural world. A part of me dies with this loss of environmental integrity. I seek reason and explanation in nature’s divine design and I find it. When it is taken from me, I follow its demise by degrees.
I’m not asking for you to eradicate this industry. This industry can be a vital aspect of our state’s economic and energy development mix. Jobs are important, energy is important. People are important. I ask only that you control it, and implement rules to force accountability where accountability has been habitually ignored in favor of pillage and profit. Bring an operational standard to an industry where only the bigger corporations are expected – but sometimes fail - to act in accordance with objectives that preserve the other vital interests of a community and our environment. We don’t have to choose energy over the environment – although this has been the mind-set furthered by the fossil fuel industry for over a hundred years. That perception has kept alternative means of energy development at bay while huge profits fill corporate coffers. Big oil can stick around. Big oil can continue to employ folks and put food on a family’s table. But, simple measures can be taken to preserve our environment in the course of that continued development, while new and better technologies contribute to Colorado’s economy also.
The very fact that industry has brought such organized opposition to these legislated rule changes demonstrates that this industry still operates in the dark ages while others of us become increasingly aware of the peril of our fragile biosphere. Such wide-spread and large scale detrimental impacts caused by a single industry cannot be allowed to continue. Big money muscle and political interests cannot be allowed continued suppression of what is right and necessary to preserve our world and ourselves.
I ask right here, right now that you do the right thing to preserve the unique qualities of our state and the finite and precious resources of air and water and soil and wildlife upon which every living thing must depend. I ask you to demonstrate respect for its inherent and God-given value, by guiding a commercial industry into a framework of accountability. Not for me, because I don’t matter. I ask for my family, for the spirit of the Earth and its ancient guardians, the wild creatures that live here now and for all of those that will come after me – wild critter and human critter - who need clean air, clean water, clean and accessible ground. For all those who need wild places too.
I ask that you defend and protect what is left in a modern era of what we know should and must be preserved for all of us standing on the sidelines watching as it is continually sacrificed.
Thank you sincerely for your thoughtful considerations of these issues.
Entry - 06-11-08
Disgusting Display of Me-Think at the COGCC Hearing....
I rolled into the hearing at 8:30am on the 10th, and searched for thirty minutes to find a place to park amid a sea - once again - of white diesel pickups. For whatever reason, this color and mode of transportation seems vastly favored among industry folk.
COGCC had sign-up sheets on a reception table for anyone wanting to speak. They had sheets for folks wanting to make comments on behalf of the environment and public health, and another on behalf of industry, with still another for those wanting to speak out as landowners of on their behalf. Even though I am a landowner and we have leased our minerals to EnCana, I put my name on the environment and wildlife list and maneuvered past a glut of workers hovering around a pro-industry table where some woman was passing out "Industry feeds my family" and "Don't rule us out" stickers. The glut extended from the table to the lobby and through the entry doors into the hearing room.
I walked into the crowd of mostly robust dudes between 20 and 50 years old wearing work boots, jeans and various kinds of t-shirts and ball caps. Some had tattoos, some didn't. Some had long hair, some didn't. All of them looked like they were present to get a job done. The air was thickly charged with a sense of mission, testosterone, camaraderie and pent-up energy - probably because there were about 1300 of these guys, maybe 300 environmental folk and maybe 20 government types. There were a few lady-types also and some kids, but they were a teeny tiny minority. A few security types were there too, but they were also a teeny tiny minority. Unless they were undercover.
Standing amid all these industry folk, I heard a couple of them joking with one another. One guy said to another in response to an on-going conversation I had just come upon... "I will behave." And the other guy says, "Don't be stepping in and ending anything either..." Har har, the second guy laughed and elbowed the first. The first guy didn't laugh. Maybe he was on probation. I don't know what kind of a fight these guys were expecting. I mean, collectively, the enviro-folk were outgunned four to one. Plus, these rig workers aren't exactly pushovers. Some of the enviro-folk looked a little underweight to me. Maybe the rig workers were just hoping to get in a few good licks even among themselves if nothing else.
At the direction of the fire department, the herd of folk (including me) on the left side of the room was ordered over to the right in order to clear exits. Darn it. And I had strategically staked out a spot near one of those exits. I had plans to duck out quick-like in the event someone went balistic. Some worker on his way out the exit on the other side of the room where I had staked out another post asked me if I had signed the petition. I asked which one. He said, the one for industry. I said, " can't do that. I'm for industry and the environment." He chuckled to his friend and said, "me too." Maybe he was. I was. But I soon realized my naiveté was to be put to the test.
COGCC Interim Director Dave Neslin laid out a few ground rules including directives to be respectful of others commentary, and began calling folks up five at a time to receive comments from microphones stationed ten feet apart in front of the seated Commissioners. And industry folk began filtering up to the mic.
Industry takes the mic....
Most of the commentary centered around a few points which asserted:
COGCC is moving too fast. Most of the speakers noted this - and all received great applause.
One woman said the rules are too comprehensive and it would have been better to have all of these hearings and hold all of the public meetings regarding only one rule at at time. The guys in the crowd whooped and applauded this perspective - which was echoed, but she elicited a standing ovation from some of the crowd when she raised her voice at the commissioners and demanded that they consider her and her business before they enact any rules changes.
One person said the 90 day stipulations amounts to transient imminent domain. Might have been the same woman. She went on well beyond her 2 minutes.
Some guy accused the Division of Wildlife of lying about industrial effects on wildlife. This is where one of the guys behind me chortled that they kill more elk during hunting season than industry does. And he went on to say that industry doesn't bother cattle either. He'd never seen a rig kill a cow.
Oh, and some woman spoke about how much wildlife love industrial development - she stood and spoke of how hunters bag elk off her place all the time. She stated with some pride that 5 bears, several cougar and other animals were recently bagged off her land. Oh, and that her son has asthma but no problems with development nearby. She brought pictures.
One guy - whose father owned thousands of acres West of Rifle spoke of how environmentally sound development is where he has leased his lands. You can see some of that development by visiting week 34.
One man who identified himself as a former Greenpeace worker said that he has had nothing but loveliness from Williams Production on his vast and developed holding. He touted William's dedication to good reclamation - the installation of only a couple of gates, and an absence of littering - despite the heavy truck traffic. He said the general, 4-wheel driving public, on the other hand regularly trashes his land, though he allows them to continue using it. He expressed dismay that some people seem to have good experiences and others 'say' they do not.
Duke Cox was finally called and asserted that the industry does in fact produce negative impacts, and that those of us actually involved in the rule change process - in the way of attending work group sessions - had worked very hard to address many of those impacts in a balanced way. He also said he had not been paid to attend. That was a point I'm glad Duke made, since it had been said that at least some of the workers who had come to the hearing had a paid day off. A few of the workers in the audience chucked at this - though I don't know why. I guess in an industry pulling down record billion dollar profits, you can pay your workforce to make a showing of solidarity on your behalf. Other working folks couldn't manage to make the all-day Tuesday hearing, or drive a hundred plus miles to be in attendance.
I took the mic
I was invited up to deliver my comments. I scribbled a few main points from the lengthy address above onto my hand, but in two minutes didn't have an opportunity to address them. Instead, I countered the preponderant assertion that the draft rule changes are too encompassing, overreaching and moving too fast.
The irony, I pointed out, in the impatient and impassioned oratory of many of the speakers is that industry has been hammering non-stop on this region for five years.
The people standing, speaking and attempting to defend their economic windfalls are doing so on the backs of residents living with industry. It's on the backs of wildlife sacrificed to its development. Its on the back of an increasingly degraded environment. The economic windfall experienced by communities outside of ground zero is ill-gotten gain.
I can appreciate the woman who spoke and demanded the Commissioners think about her when they decide to draft the final version of the rules. But I wonder if she has any idea of the time that my family has sacrificed trying to defend our very lives and physical home from the onslaught of this industry - as our own small business development has had to go on hold for the last five years. I wonder if she has any idea what it cost my family in terms of dollars just to try to get to the hearing. Probably not. Because all she seemed in interested in was herself.
Industry can pay to play
The sentiment that echoed for half a day through the huge hearing hall, was "me", "me", "me". Indeed, the kinds of profits associated with pillage are often great and appeal to the baser desires of many folks. Piracy is usually always easier and more lucrative than genuine commerce. But if we are going to try to provide for industrial development and preserve our precious resources of air and water, soil and wildlife, we have to get beyond "me" and start talking about "us". And this is something we can do. The oil and gas industry can make a play for Colorado. But not at a price the rest of us have to pay.
This is a small EnCana pad site. It was put in around five years ago. Initially, it had a number of 20 foot trees planted around its perimeter - that's back when EnCana was touting it as a show site. They even went so far as to paint the condensate tank to match the surroundings - and they did a pretty good job of that. However, when you're breathing benzene, you really don't care how pretty the container is. Anyway, the trees all died - there were maybe a dozen to sixteen -- one tree planted about every twenty feet around the perimeter. For a while a water truck serviced the trees maybe once a week, which was a good initial effort and the fact that trees were installed at all was a good initial idea. But, as usual, there was a lack of commitment. Follow-through failed and the trees withered and finally died. At this same site, the waste pit was dozed in and left - which was counter to COGCC rules. It would have remained so except that a neighbor reported it (but had to keep after the COGCC to do anything about it). That neighbor has since moved. I'm not sure if anything ever did happen to take care of this site properly. We were a little preoccupied with the creek lighting on fire at the time. Anyway, I put this photo up because this is what pad sites really look like after five years. There is no lush forage. Toxic soils - perhaps. This site is typical in how it has been treated, but it is not typical in size. This site was considered a poor producer and so languishes at maybe four or five acres with one well - and all its lonely-looking paraphernalia. Since the state began to allow increasing density, mega pads now flourish - that is, they are much bigger with a lot more paraphernalia. And still of those that I've seen.... just dirt, lingering pits and judging from the commonly stained ground - toxic soils.
This picture shows the area a little closer in. Click here or on the picture for a big-time high resolution (150K) photo you can really look into. [06-11-08]
|Entry - 06-13-08
A Conversation with Stephen Bershenyi (or Steve "B", as I call him, because I cannot hammer the pronunciation of his last name through my head) Candidate for Garfield County Commissioner
I met Stephen at the Creekbend in Rifle earlier this week and he and I had a heart to heart on issues plaguing this county.
The emphasis on our meeting was enhanced because I had been pondering a run for office over the past few weeks, but a few folks close to the Democratic party expressed near panicked concern over that idea. The reason was because they were fearful that Stephen and I may be similar enough on enough issues to split the vote, thereby granting incumbent John Martin the lead - which all of us agreed should be strongly considered. Look what happened between Barack and Clinton. If they both ran against McCain, he'd probably win. He'll probably win anyway - but that's another conversation. For the record, I'm not voting for either Obama or McCain, and I would have considered running for GarCo Commissioner as an independent - which I've been for over twenty years. As an independent, I would have to scrounge both petition signatures and cash and a few other things by a deadline to make a run for this office - so any chance of me winning would be slim. Nonetheless, I was flattered that anyone might actually think I could scrounge enough votes to be a contender against either a republican or democratic candidate. They would, after all, enjoy the powerful backing of both organized parties.
I'd like to make it clear to anyone reading this and thinking - "Oh my God! All we need is her in office!", that I do not wish to run for office. Politics turn me on about as much as a moldy potato. To quote Lou Dobbs - who I may write in as my presidential candidate of choice: "I don't exactly have the temperament...." I about gagged in the capital building cafeteria during my recent visit to Denver - and not from swigging my V-8 too heartily. The posturing and self-importance was just almost too much to take. I had to quickly turn my attention to the funnies to keep my beverage from surfacing through a sinus cavity. Really, the folks in the cafeteria were funnier than Snoopy. But I digress.
As I said, I don't particularly covet the idea of being a commissioner. However, I love Colorado. I love this county and I care deeply about its future and the folks who call it home. Recent positions taken by John Martin and Larry McCown regarding the continuing devastation brought to his county by an unchecked energy industry were simply too egregious to ignore. And frankly, I wouldn't ask anyone else to do what I am unwilling to do myself. So if that means running for office, I say bring it on. But, then again.... if Stephen can carry that torch, maybe I can simply support him. I think that's what some in the democratic camp are at least hoping for. And me too, if it is to be.
Before we arranged our meeting, I asked Stephen straight out if he was strong enough to defend his political position against this industry if need be. And while he didn't grab the six gun on his hip and shout out 'hell yeah let's roll' (because he didn't have a six gun), his answer left me feeling confident that he is strong in his convictions. He is far better than I at wielding the political response, and though he is older than me, I am too old to beat around the bush any more. Time is short - I say let's get it on.
So we did.
Stephen and I eyeballed one another as potential contenders for John Martin's county commissioner seat. He was gracious to offer me my choice of chairs. Given my infamy, I chose the one against the wall.
He ordered. I squeezed a lemon into my tea - the conversation began.
Immediately I peered into his eyes. I want to read someone for who they really are. Not who they say they are. I wanted to see if he matched his words. But, Stephen is a pretty guarded read. That's a good thing for a politician. He has to sit at a poker table all the time. In tough boom country, this is a trait I admire. I would have to work harder. I can't imagine why he was so guarded.
It is probably in poor taste to jump right into the meat of the matter when two people sit down to dine together. But, as I said, this industry has put me on guard like a junkyard dog, and I am constantly reminded of how short "time" really is. So I asked him his take on matters from the 90-day wildlife stipulations, to public health, to area economics.
As an educator, I wanted to hear how he educates himself. I wanted to discern whether he has a good grasp of the complexities of the situation in our state and in our county. As one who believes every challenge has a means and a solution, I wanted to hear his ideas for fixes.
Stephen laid it out, in plain talk and at times enthusiastically spontaneous passion. Right on. If you're going to stand for something, for God's sake, believe in it.
I liked Stephen's support for drilling at the base of the Roan versus drilling it's Plateau. He spoke about the largest mule deer herd in North America and the native cutthroat trout which could be imperiled if drilling were to proceed on the Roan. Good, good. I know about this. He spoke about the technology available to do it. Good... This is stuff that industry sometimes tries to hide. So he's diligent in his research. He spoke about the communities in the county speaking out against such drilling. Yes, yes. They did. And he expressed dismay that drilling is going forward, regardless and perhaps to the detriment of other industries - like tourism. Ah... so he realizes the value of governance by the people for the people. Very good. He laid out the numbers to illustrate this issue. Prepared to defend his position. I'm loving this. This could be me sitting across from me.
We talked economics. I said, sure, there are some businesses going great from all of this activity. Who could say that's bad? But, the dirty secret industry doesn't want anyone to know about is that others are suffering loses. Why? Because of a labor drain. A huge black hole that is sucking qualified people from our diverse local economy and re-depositing them with big-time wages into the lap of industry. For the last couple of months the COGCC has posted job openings in search of field inspectors. In our area, one has retired and he and another have been sucked up by industry. As of the time of this writing there are two boots on the ground to oversee 6100 wells in our area. That's like two police officers managing a rioting, looting horde in a land without law. Yet, most in industry don't want any more rules. Well, what horde would? And who in their right mind would take the job when industry offers so much more money? The wages for COGCC field inspectors are set by our legislature. And industry pays double. But the industry says, 'just hold us to performance standards. We'll promise we'll be good.' Uh huh. And who is going to make sure they are being good? Performance depends upon verified compliance - otherwise, who will know otherwise? So, even the state is suffering a labor drain in a sector vital to the public's health and safety! What kind of sick and twisted irony is that?
If the COGCC is going to amount to little more than a training ground for industry, Stephen suggested a greater role by the community college. CMC could offer training, and supply both the state and industry. I suggested that an increased severance tax (which will be a ballot issue in November) should help offset any additional drain on state coffers currently being supplied by citizens. After all, the inspectors are needed to help keep industry in check, industry should help soften the impacts... pay to play. Stephen shared that Colorado is receiving something like a third of what Wyoming is in the way of severance. Wyoming. Cheney's home state. Why should Colorado citizens take on the overwhelming burden brought on by this industry? I say they are only doing so now because of a perfect political, social and economic storm of avarice, ignorance and fear. All the more reason we must have a county representative who understands the intricacies of such conflicts and how to resolve them.
He also noted that the municipalities in the county are being put upon to a degree that is staggering. At a recent Energy Advisory Board meeting he attended, Stephen said Parachute's town administrator anticipated a $300,000 budget shortfall this year, simply due to a lack of funds necessary to uphold certain necessary infrastructure investments and operating costs. Stephen said the county could be investing it's "rainy-day fund" in these municipalities who are county citizens also and, via a loan-process, could generate a long-term quantifiable income stream while helping to upgrade failing infrastructure due primarily to industry's impacts. I noted that folks on 331 road had to endure three years of degraded roads before the county resurfaced last year. At one point I counted over a hundred large potholes and was just about to write a letter to the editor likening the jumping, bumping, grinding and dodging of on-coming traffic to an amusement park ride when I saw the graders out on the road. It was like they read my mind.
Stephen said, the county should be charging a $15,000 impact fee to make more immediately available the funds to correct such a situation. He referred to a socioeconomic report which was commissioned by the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado. The report, chock full of all sorts of good stuff, predicted that after the gas plays out and industry moves on, the region could be left suffering from an overall shortfall of over three-hundred million dollars. How's that for partying down only to find out after the last guest leaves, you've gotten stuck with the bill. He said if the impact fee had been in place when industry first rolled into town, and if the county - not just Tresi - had been more interested in partnering with municipalities all along, Garfield County would have over ninety-one million in funds available to lesson county and municipal impacts.
In addition, he expressed concern for the way in which DOLA formulates and thereby apportions community funding through the imposition and collection of severance tax. He said, such funds were going to the building of a new academic lab near Denver while Parachute cannot afford to enlarge its interstate interchange. While he said he supports education, he felt the dollars from that tax should be turned to areas of greatest impact. I appreciated Stephen's research, inclination to consider the county in its entirety in his consideration of a solution, and above all, I appreciated his recognition that such a policy would bring economic resources to areas which are hardest hit by development. Why should one operator who is inclined to kick in some extra bucks to soften their impacts suffer economic disadvantage against one who doesn't want to crack open their wallet.
The same can be said for rule changes. A common sense standard which supports industrial development and still preserves public health, economic stability and the environment can be achieved - and easily - without any significant impact to a fat cat industry bloated and drooling from gorging on an excess of public generosity and sacrifice.
Stephen agreed that on any issue involving human health and safety, people must come first. And he recognizes that solutions are within easy reach. Like he said, "All solutions begin with a conversation. Just because we have minimum expectations of the oil and gas industry, doesn't mean we don't like them." He advocates partnerships, which I recognize as necessary. Stephen also advocates governance by the people, for the people. Both of these are concepts we see as having slipped past the two republicans holding down current Commissioner's seats. From our short but dense discussion, I believe Stephen strongly values the benefit in devising solutions which can help the whole of our county prosper in as balanced a way as possible, while preserving what makes our region special - it's people and the landscape - beyond today and into tomorrow. In his passion, I glimpsed in his eyes a guy with a real and substantial vision excited to get on with the business of returning a stronger county to its people.
That's a philosophy I share and can get behind, so I am.
The tough and tricky topics out of the way, we turned our conversation to something else we both have in common. Art. Stephen is a blacksmith and shared photos of some of his work with me. His work reveals a connectivity with the Earth that belies his tough exterior visage. The gentle curves and lines, the gnarly impressions and organic twists of iron speak broader tones and tenors than our conversation could have embraced, and it's a language I understand.
At the end of our conversation, I shook Stephen's hand, gifted with a deeper sense of the man and happy to be supporting his candidacy any way I can.
"Northwest Colorado Socioeconomic Analysis and
|Entry - 06-13-08
A Special Point of Disgust For Me and A New Low for BLM
I received this notice from the Colorado Environmental Coalition today, and thought you might like to see how well regarded your opinion is among the BLM which is tasked as an agency to manage public lands within its purview in accordance with a "multiple use" doctrine.
I've been involved in this issue from the get-go, and this type of disregard for the common sense of public sentiment and the vitality of other public interests makes me sick.
Not all workers with the BLM share in their approval of this process. I held conversations with several BLM folk way back when I was begging them to study the habitat of our elk herds and conduct an Environmental Assessment of our area. And all of them in essence said: 'we weren't trained to accept this kind of crap. We don't condone it, but the orders are coming down from the top, and we can't risk our jobs.' Regular folk, trying to survive.
Politics sucks. Here's the post I received. Help if you are so moved.
"Bureau of Land Management Puts Roan Plateau on the Auction Block
On Monday the Bureau of Land Management announced that they will make available for leasing all 55,000 acres of unleased, undeveloped public lands on top and at the base of the Roan Plateau in August. Despite 8 years of overwhelming public support for protecting the Roan – and with legislation currently in Congress – the Bush Administration is moving full steam ahead with their irresponsible plan to drill. This move represents another slap in the face from the administration to a broad group of Coloradans – from our congressional delegation and governor to sportsmen, local communities and concerned citizens across the state."
If you want to know more about this atrocity and make your dissatisfaction known, visit the link below to learn more about the issue through fact sheets, take action steps and get involved.
"Mother, Father, God, Universal Power.
Touch our hearts with the glorious oneness of all
Penetrate our souls with the beauty of this earth,
Awaken our minds with the knowledge to achieve a world in
-- Jo Poore
|I lost one of my favorite uncles this week.
A big ol' slow-talking, big-hearted man from up in the Osage country.
I know everyone from miles around will be there to see him off as his
presence was profound and he touched the hearts of many. He had a
unique and effective way of diffusing conflict and advancing peace during
his forty years in law enforcement, and his leadership and jovial manner
will doubtless be missed. He and Blackcloud were brothers bonded beyond
words, and if the ancients need to call another good one up, I'm just happy
they're in one another's good company.
Godspeed, big lovie bear.
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