Garfield County Energy Advisory Board proposal may spark controversy
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
As Garfield County’s Energy Advisory Board searches for the best way to do its job, one proposal seems destined to spark debate at an upcoming work session with the Board of County Commissioners.
A subcommittee of the board has proposed that anyone who wants to make a public comment during one of the EAB’s monthly meetings should submit a special form in advance outlining the subject to be addressed.
The county’s oil and gas liaison, Judy Jordan, expressed concerns that by requiring citizens to fill out a form in advance, the EAB would actually discourage public involvement in the board’s deliberations.
The EAB was created in 2004 to: provide a neutral forum for airing conflicts between community members and the gas drilling industry working in Garfield County; provide information and educational programs about the industry’s operations; and advise the commissioners about industry-related issues.
The subcommittee was created in March of this year, following a period when the future of the EAB itself seemed in jeopardy. The subcommittee was to examine the EAB’s mission, its ongoing functional difficulties and other issues.
The commissioners had directed the EAB’s members to discuss its future after receiving a letter from seven of the firms operating in Garfield County’s rich natural gas fields.
The letter complained that the EAB had “deteriorated into a toxic atmosphere that serves as a means to bash industry” and that provided a venue for “vicious attacks” by industry critics.
Four of the signers of the letter serve on the EAB as industry representatives – Jon Black of Antero Resources, Doug Dennison of Bill Barrett Corp., Sher Long of EnCana Oil and Gas (USA) and Susan Alvillar of Williams Production Co.
But at a meeting in March, as the members of the board debated its function and fate, County Commissioner Mike Samson stood up and urged those present to keep on going.
Samson said he was speaking for his fellow commissioners, Tresi Houpt and John Martin, and that all three of the commissioners wanted the EAB to figure out how best to fulfill its role as a place where the general public could interact with representatives of the energy industry.
According to Jordan, the board has been debating the issues in the ensuing months, and the subcommittee presented the proposed form at a meeting in June.
Jordan, who attends the meeting as a representative of the county, recalled, “I was concerned it was going to place a barrier between anyone [in the public] who wanted to make a comment, and their ability to do so.”
Jordan was assured that the intent was not to put up barriers to public comment, but to give EAB members a chance to gather information and provide answers to any issues raised by the public, as quickly as possible.
Jordan said the form, and other matters relating to the EAB, are likely to be debated at the July 13 meeting, at which members of the EAB will meet with the county commissioners.
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