Let’s change our elected officials from lapdogs to watchdogs
An article by Mike McKibbin in the Dec. 3 Daily Sentinel titled “GarCO Commission again urged to hire gas well watch dog” is deserving of some back up and additional history.
For at least four years that I am aware of, citizens have requested a full-time Local Government Designee for Garfield County. For that same time county commissioner Larry McCown has blocked efforts to fill this much-needed position.
Larry’s sympathy for the LGD, in the limited power position, should be more appropriately saved for the citizens of Garfield County who have been and will continue to be negatively impacted by gas development. Larry seems to resent LGD responsibility equating it with an industry tattletale. An LGD would be responsible for reviewing industry Applications for Permits to Drill. These APD’s need to be reviewed to determine the appropriateness of location, and possible damaging effects of drilling on other current land uses. The LGD has the ability to comment on APD’s for a period of seven days prior to approval by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The LGD can request a denial of a permit, which will at least trigger further study of a specific site.
Building and Planning Director Mark Bean, who is currently titled as LGD, is a dedicated public servant and one of the most overworked and valuable staffers that Garfield County has. He has never had the time needed to review APD’s, nor do onsite inspections. The level of residential and other development in Garfield County requires his full attention. Larry has insisted on saddling Mark with the LGD title knowing full well he could not be effective in light of his other duties.
Commissioner McCown is correct in his assertion that the LGD is not a power position. This position was created to oversee local gas development and act as a citizen advocate when necessary. “Watch dog” is a fair description. Considering the level of gas development in Garfield County, and the problems that have arisen from gas development, it is far past time to fill the position in question. The value of the position is a citizen link to the all-powerful COGCC, who are notoriously unresponsive to citizen concerns, as they are currently more of a promotional agency than a regulatory one. The inherently conflictual nature of those responsibilities has lead to the ineffectiveness as a regulatory agency, with little concern for the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens in affected areas.
Please urge the County Commissioners to fill the LGD position. Let Larry McCown know that his ties to the gas industry have not gone unnoticed. You, the voters, can and should change the role of your elected officials from lapdogs of industry to that of watchdogs for citizen interests.
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