Gas drillers say ‘Community Counts’ solves problems
Oil and gas operators in Garfield County are planning to revitalize a service known as “Community Counts,” which is intended to provide a way for citizens and the industry to interact.But industry officials said the emphasis on the industry-sponsored service is not meant to replace the county’s own Energy Advisory Board (EAB), which was created in 2004 for much the same purpose.The topic came up at the EAB’s Sept. 1 meeting in Glenwood Springs. It was the board’s first meeting since May, after taking a break for the summer months.During an update on the Community Counts group, a nonprofit organization started by the industry several years ago, public relations manager Susan Alvillar of Williams Production RMT introduced Mary Lou Wilson, the newly-hired director of Community Counts. Alvillar said that Community Counts was “kind of a loose-knit group until about two years ago,” offering a toll-free phone number and a website for county residents to contact whenever they had a complaint or some other need to contact a drilling company.Following a reorganization to make the organization more efficient and responsive, Wilson said, “We’re working toward what we call our October rebirth. Now that we know who we are, we want the community to know who we are.”She said the organization is headquartered in Grand Junction, where she lives, and that considerable work has gone into updating the Community Counts website [communitycountscolorado.com]. The toll free number is 866-442-9034.The website features a “rig map” which, as of Friday, showed roughly two-dozen well locations.A single click on any location will show the viewer the name of the well operator and a telephone number to contact.Wilson said the organization also is starting up a newsletter to its members, which currently are essentially all energy companies – EnCana Oil & Gas (USA), Bill Barrett Corp., OXY Oil & Gas Corp., Antero Resources and Chevron were the ones Wilson listed.The website contains information about how to join, whether as a company, an organization or an individual.Following the presentation, EAB member Scott Brynildson, who represents the Mamm Creek and Hunter Mesa areas, asked the industry spokespersons, “You want to replace this board with Community Counts?””No, no,” responded Alvillar and Sher Long, the public relations official for EnCana, simultaneously.”But that’s what you said,” countered Brynildson, recalling that in 2010 some industry representatives had argued that the EAB had outlived its usefulness as a venue for lodging complaints or seeking information about the industry.”This forum has deteriorated into a toxic atmosphere that serves as a means to bash industry,” declared a Jan. 29, 2010 letter sent to the county by seven energy companies.The letter suggested that Community Counts could do a better job than the EAB, and that the county should disband the EAB.The Garfield Board of County Commissioners declined, however, and reaffirmed the EAB’s role as a place where citizens and the industry could work out problems and as a venue for educational presentations about the industry and other matters.At the Sept. 1 meeting, Alvillar and others said Community Counts is better suited to offer a quick response to specific problems, because the EAB meets only once a month.Alvillar noted that Community Counts recently took a complaint about industry trucks using their “Jake brakes” as they descended the hill on Battlement Parkway in Battlement Mesa.The truckers involved were located and the problem was solved quickly, she said.The EAB chairman, Jeff Simmonson of Divide Creek, pointed out that a problem submitted to the EAB often involved incidents “that maybe happened 20 days earlier,” and that resolution through the EAB could not be reported to the board until the following month.Sean Norris, the EAB’s representative from OXY, said the board should deal with “the bigger, conceptual issues,” not the day-by-day complaints.Rulison resident Marion Wells told the group that she had found Community Counts unresponsive to a complaint she lodged with the group, though she did not mention the nature of the complaint.”I did not get a response at all,” Wells said. “No return phone call.”Wilson and others at the meeting said they would try to track down that specific complaint, and pledged that a response would be forthcoming in the firstname.lastname@example.org
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