CORE Act clears committee, Garfield County support now split |

CORE Act clears committee, Garfield County support now split

A portion of the Thompson Divide area southwest of Glenwood Springs and due west of Carbondale. Elected officials from both towns have signed letters supporting federal legislation to remove the area from future oil and gas leasing permanently.
EcoFlight photo

From thousands of miles away, Garfield County commissioners had a big presence in Congress this week as a committee considered a bill that would protect the Thompson Divide from mineral extraction.

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act — including protections for the Thompson Divide area west of Carbondale — cleared the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources along party lines Wednesday. The vote came after Republicans and Democrats sparred over various aspects of the bill, including the Thompson Divide.

The near-unanimous support among local governments for withdrawing the Thompson Divide from future mineral extraction was broken by Garfield County commissioners earlier this year when they refused to support the bill.

Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar attempted to make Thompson Divide withdrawal contingent upon Garfield County Board of Commissioners’ approval.

The CORE Act “does not reflect the will of Garfield County nor many other rural counties that depend on oil and gas industry for jobs and revenue,” Gosar said in introducing his amendment.

“This very modest improvement that will empower local voices who have expressed opposition to this permanent withdrawal, while allowing it to proceed for the counties that have expressed support,” Gosar said of his amendment.

Gosar’s amendment ultimately failed, and CORE Act co-sponsor Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse of Summit County, pushed back on the act not having local support.

“While the input of local commissioners is certainly critical to any well crafted bill, I would just repeat the point I made earlier,” Neguse said. “It’s also important to note the many local leaders and municipalities within the county are supportive of this bill — many of the stakeholders that have been deeply involved in the Thompson Divide withdrawal negotiations; many of which I already mentioned: Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, and so forth.”

He also noted that Garfield County commissioners urged withdrawal of mineral leases from Thompson Divide in 2010, along with Pitkin County.

Commissioners Split on CORE Act

Neguse also noted that Garfield County did have an impact on the bill, which now would allow federal leases to capture methane from active, inactive, or abandoned coal mines within the Thompson Divide.

During a meeting with Sen. Michael Bennet’s staff in May, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he would support permanent Thompson Divide withdrawal if the bill included provisions for capturing methane from the area.

In an interview Thursday, Jankovsky said the methane provisions are enough to win his support, but the other two commissioners are still opposed.

 “That’s a commitment I made, and I’ll stay that way,” Jankovsky said.

The other two commissioners have not changed their positions, he added, and it would take another vote for the commissioners to change their minds.

“While I’ve changed my opinion, Garfield County has not changed its position on the CORE Act,” he said.

Commissioners John Martin and Mike Samson were not immediately available to comment.

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