Martin defends oil shale meeting
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The Garfield County commissioners’ participation in an out-of-state meeting to craft a joint position statement on oil shale development was not meant to keep the public out of the loop, Commission Chairman John Martin said.
“We have nothing to hide, and we feel that we did everything we needed to do in the open,” Martin said. “If the remedy is to rescind our vote on the resolution and have another hearing on this, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Martin’s comments came in response to a lawsuit filed Monday by a pair of citizens groups claiming the commissioners violated the Colorado Open Meetings Law by attending the closed-door session hosted by the Uintah County commissioners in Vernal, Utah, in March.
The Grand Valley Citizens Alliance (GVCA) and the Western Colorado Congress (WCC), are asking a Garfield District Court judge to rule on whether the commissioners violated the law by not properly posting their plans to attend the meeting.
The lawsuit also claims the Garfield commissioners, all three of whom attended the meeting, did not take a required vote to meet in executive session. They also did not announce the reasons for doing so, and illegally took a position in the March 27 meeting, the lawsuit claims.
The joint meeting included county commissioners from several Colorado, Utah and Wyoming counties, as well as industry representatives and Utah state officials.
It produced a unified position statement critical of a U.S. Bureau of Land Management plan to significantly reduce the amount of public lands in the three states to lease for oil shale research and development.
Garfield County commissioners adopted a slightly modified version of that position in a resolution passed unanimously at the regular April 9 commissioners meeting in Glenwood Springs.
The lawsuit claims the decision was a “rubber stamp” of something that had already been decided at the closed-door meeting in Vernal.
But Martin said the Vernal meeting was purely “informational,” and that the actual decision was made at a regular Garfield Board of County Commissioners meeting following public comments.
“No decisions were made in Vernal, and it was posted that there would be no decisions and that it was only for information,” Martin said. “We took three hours of testimony, which did help shape the resolution. If we have to do it again, we will.”
GVCA president Leslie Robinson said the a decision to rescind the resolution and turn around and pass it again, as Uintah County commissioners did, is not enough in her mind.
“The other purpose of this lawsuit besides pointing out that they had an illegal meeting is that we need to have a lengthy, full-blown discussion about oil shale development and its impacts,” Robinson said.
“To just turn around and re-do the same resolution without having that discussion is just another rubber stamp,” she said. “The point is they’re not listening to the citizens.”
Martin said he questions whether the lawsuit is truly aimed at energy development policy, or if it’s politically motivated.
“It is an election year, after all,” Martin said.
Martin and fellow Republican incumbent Commissioner Mike Samson are being challenged in this fall’s election by two Democratic candidates, Sonja Linman and Aleks Briedis, respectively.
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