Gas operators decry ‘toxic atmosphere’ of Energy Advisory Board |

Gas operators decry ‘toxic atmosphere’ of Energy Advisory Board

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

A letter from seven different gas drilling companies, all of them operating in Garfield County, expressed “sincere concern and frustration” concerning “several serious issues we have struggled with for some time” about how the county interacts with the industry.

The letter, to county manager Ed Green, included dissatisfaction with what the letter terms a “toxic atmosphere” of the county’s Energy Advisory Board, and with the performance of the county’s Oil and Gas Liaison official, Judy Jordan.

The Jan. 29 letter, from the “Garfield County Operators Group,” came to light at the Feb. 16 Garfield County commissioners meeting, when the board of county commissioners discussed the possible dissolution of the EAB.

The BOCC asked that the EAB get together to discuss whether it is still able to perform its function effectively.

Although county attorney Don DeFord declined to release the letter to reporters on the day of the meeting, it was released on Wednesday.

“This forum has deteriorated into a toxic atmosphere that serves as a means to bash industry,” declared the letter, which is signed by representatives of Antero Resources, Bill Barrett Corp., EnCana Oil and Gas (USA), Marathon Oil Co., Laramie Energy II, Noble Energy and Williams Production Co.

In the current atmosphere, the letter continues, there is “no direction to bring it [the EAB’s monthly meetings] back on course as a conflict resolving and educational body,” and asserts that “much damage has been done that will take a serious effort to repair.”

The letter suggested that the purpose of resolving conflicts is better accomplished through the industry’s “Community Counts” program, which maintains a website and holds monthly meetings intended, in part, to work on complaints and conflicts that arise out of the industry’s work.

“We would like to hear from you and the Commissioner’s reasons why the [EAB] should continue, and suggestions about how it can return to a productive state,” the letter concluded, adding that the industry feels it would be a good idea to hold the meetings once every two months rather than once a month.

The idea of dissolving the EAB, however, is not sitting well with some of those who are members.

Betsy Suerth, administrator of the Town of Silt and the former chair of the EAB, disagreed that the monthly EAB meetings had deteriorated to the point of being non-productive.

She noted, as did the industry letter, that the EAB recently conducted a “conflict resolution” exercise in lieu of its regular February meeting. Suerth said she had felt that the training exercise “was a very good step” toward resolving any outstanding problems on the board.

As for “damage” to the board’s ability to function, Suerth said, “We all know that during the public comment period … is the time for people to bring forth complaints and comments,” and the comments are not always friendly.

But, Suerth said, “I actually thought it had been getting better” in terms of the level of civility among the board members and the audience.

She noted that the public comment times are “a very small portion of the meetings … the majority of the time is spent on education and board member reports.”

Suerth, whose chairmanship ended in January, rejected the idea of holding the meetings once every two months instead of the current monthly schedule, maintaining that bi-monthly is “too long” for members of the public to wait to submit complaints or comments.

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