Energy advisors, industry critics clash at Garfield County energy meeting |

Energy advisors, industry critics clash at Garfield County energy meeting

John Colson

RIFLE — Critics of the oil and gas industry drew a rebuke from the chairman of the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board (EAB) on Thursday, over the critics’ way of presenting their viewpoints at the EAB meeting that night.

The critics, all from Carbondale, during the “public comment” period of the meeting, used theatrical tactics to impart their feelings about the oil and gas industry in Garfield County and, in particular, about the prospect of drilling for natural gas in the Thompson Divide area to the west of Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

In turn, the industry skeptics included:

• Amy Kimberly, director of a non-profit arts organization, reading an essay asking why drilling would ever be entertained in an area such as the Thompson Divide, which she said produces an “abundance” of locally necessary resources and is highly prized as an untrammeled region of forests, creeks, and natural beauty.

• Melanie Finan, another employee of a non-profit organization, who recited a limerick extolling the natural diversity of the Thompson Divide area, and letting the industry know that Carbondale is unified in its determination to keep the drilling rigs out of the area.

• Susie Lockhard, a health care worker, displayed a Native American dream catcher, with a web woven from a single sinew that is designed to catch a person’s good dreams and allow the bad ones, meaning any negative impacts from oil and gas drilling, to fall through a hole in the center of the web.

A woman playing a soulful tune on a wooden flute, which prompted EAB chair Brent Buss to try to interrupt with the remark, “Excuse me, do we have a speaker? We don’t have a music presentation tonight!”

• Activist Mary Russell, using the kind of folded-paper, four-square fortune-telling device one finds in elementary schools, told the future of EAB member A.J. Hobbs of Carbondale, which she said revealed the concept that all things are connected, such as emissions from oil and gas facilities that find their way into the air above Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

• And activist Richard Votero, using a ladder as a prop to describe his ascent from knowing almost nothing about the oil and gas industry several years ago, to knowing more than he likes now, and fearing the industry’s effects on the area’s environment.

Through much of the theatrical performances, EAB Chair Brent Buss and Garfield County Oil and Gas Liaison Kirby Wynn exchanged frowning glances and shook their heads.

Immediately after the performances, David Ludlam, director of the Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association (WSCOGA) industry trade group, called the theatrical presentations “refreshing” and complimented the performers for speaking “eloquently, creatively and earnestly.”

He continued, however, by restating a claim made earlier this year by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), that the environmental objections to the industry tend to come from communities of wealth and privilege, where activists have the money to make themselves heard.

While he did not name Carbondale in his remarks, Russell tried to respond but was cut off by Buss.

When she argued that the EAB’s bylaws allow a speaker three minutes to address the board, and she had only taken up less than a minute of her allotted time, Buss replied, “You have three consecutive minutes.”

When Russell challenged that and demanded to check the bylaws, Buss replied, “You’re disrupting the meeting,” and ignored her attempts to respond as he asked if there were any other members of the public who wished to make comments to the board.

As Russell took her seat grumbling, “I’ve been shut down,” Wynn said that if she had any complaints about how the EAB meetings were run, she was welcome to take them up with the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners, which oversees the EAB.

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