Fox-Perry: Thompson Divide Coalition is ‘just chugging along’

John ColsonPost Independent staffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE, Colorado – The Thompson Divide Coalition, which has been working to keep gas drilling companies out of a section of backcountry near Carbondale, is negotiating with gas industry officials, as well as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. to achieve their goals.A representative of the TDC, Judy Fox-Perry, met with the board of county commissioners on April 12 and said of the organization, “We’re just chugging along.”She said the group has contacted Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and is preparing for talks with his brother, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., about supporting the TDC’s mission of keeping gas rigs out of the Thompson Divide area.Among the group’s arguments is a belief that the Thompson Divide area would be only marginally productive, since it is on the eastern edge of the gas-rich Piceance Basin that underlies much of western Garfield County.Proponents of drilling have said that exploration of the area can be done in environmentally sound ways that would benefit the local economy and help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources.As for contacts with the industry, Fox-Perry reported that the group has worked with EnCana Oil & Gas, USA and with the S&G Corporation. The group has asked that industry either retire the 81 leases in question, donate them for preservation efforts, or sell them to conservationists.But, she said, “It’s not been a rush of responses.”Commissioner John Martin replied that the industry is working on the issue, as are federal agencies.The TDC was formed in late 2008 and has won the support of the municipalities of Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Aspen, as well as Pitkin and Garfield counties.As an indication of the group’s growing support among local communities, Fox-Perry said the TDC is the “featured nonprofit” for the upcoming 5-Point Film Festival, which is April 29-May 2 in Carbondale.The BOCC last September approved a resolution that essentially laid out the TDC’s arguments for preventing oil and gas drilling in the relatively pristine area to the southwest of Carbondale, part of roughly 122,000 acres of “largely roadless landscape which is the largest contiguous virtually roadless area in the State of Colorado,” in the words of the resolution.While making clear references to the area’s value as a haven for wildlife and recreationists, and as a source of clean water, the three-page resolution also insists that the coalition find a way to achieve its goals “in a manner that respects existing rights of leaseholders.”

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