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Extractive industries chase people away

Carl Roberts

Dear Editor,

Howdy from Delta County. Like refugees from a war zone, we fled Garfield County and the gas wars in January 2002. Landing in Delta County only to discover that Coal Bed Methane had discovered Grand Mesa. Another story for another letter.

Garfield County cannot afford to allow too many of its resident property owners to flee in this manner. Your county commissioners need to do their homework on the changing demographics of your county. Western Colorado populations need to be studied and understood to prepare for the future needs and opportunities of counties like Garfield.

Studies show clearly that total personal income from nonlabor income has risen to over 50 percent of all income sources. Examples include rent, interest, dividends and transfer payments (mostly retirement income). The increasing contribution of nonlabor income is indicative of a growing retirement community and households with investment income.

Self employed individuals are often called “footloose” entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of advances in technologies to work where they live. Increasingly, the choice of a community is based on quality-of-life indicators. Entrepreneurs are also indicative of a high quality workforce and may indicate the presence of new economic activity.

Given these indicators as to who is moving to and living in Garfield County, your county commissioners should be attempting to court and enhance the quality-of-life factors that have drawn those folks to live there, rather than encouraging industries like gas extraction to do business in Garfield County. Gas extraction and the associated impacts created, i.e. bad county roads, destruction of landscapes, wildlife habitat fragmentation, air pollution, water pollution, and overall decrease in life quality, are just what drives people like myself from your county. Retirees looking to relocate will weigh all these impacts in an attempt to decide where to live. You will never know how many potential residents have decided against Garfield County because of the impacts left by the gas industry.

Your county officials have fallen into the “easy revenue” trap of gas severance taxes. Without a comprehensive Cost Benefit Analysis the county is making bad decisions based on misleading revenue information regarding extractive industries. They have never measured the costs of gas against the benefits. External costs are often hard to quantify, or place a dollar value on, i.e. clean water, clean air, great views, good life quality. What are the dollar values of polluted resources to future generations much less current populations?

The last great resource you have is your land values. They will not continue to go up or even remain stable given the tremendous impacts of extractive industries. Urge your elected officials to look to other revenue sources and wean themselves from their addiction to severance taxes that seem to have no cost to the county. Demand that they begin a real cost benefit analysis to determine how much the gas industry is really sucking from Garfield County.

Get involved with your grassroots groups that are attempting to mitigate the impacts that the gas cash cow has brought to you. Elect forward thinking officials that are not swayed by the “easy money,” and will encourage clean industry, and enhance the qualities that bring sustainable revenues to their coffers. Your future is in your own hands, or will you let some faceless energy company leave you with their mess while they take huge profits.

Good Luck,

Carl Roberts


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