NACo conference allowed national discussion on issues |

NACo conference allowed national discussion on issues

As many of you know, I paid my way to attend the National Association of Counties Annual Conference in Honolulu this past week, in order to address issues concerning Garfield County residents. The reason I decided to attend was to bring forward two resolutions on oil and gas activity that constituents had asked that I introduce into the national discussion. My resolutions were presented to two committees, the Environment, Energy and Land Use Steering Committee, and the Public Lands Committee.

Both received great debate and support in the EELU Steering Committee, of which I am a member. The Public Lands Steering Committee heard and passed my resolution on the surface impacts of natural gas drilling and chose not to discuss my resolution on hydraulic fracturing without toxic fluids. Garfield County Commissioner John Martin is a member of the Public Lands Committee.

My resolution on surface impacts passed through the EELU Committee and then through Public Lands. Language on specific geologic strata was offered by representatives from the EELU Committee. After it was approved, I took my resolution to Public Lands and offered John Martin the opportunity to add a couple of words that softened the request, but did not change the intent. Although more language was added than I thought necessary in a policy statement, I appreciated the discussion behind most of the additions.

The final policy reads as follows: “NACo calls upon the Bureau of Land Management, other Federal Land managers and impacted states to encourage the use of state-of-the art technology when using directional drilling in areas with conducive geological strata, such as tight sands areas and solid rock formations with large pockets of natural gas. Proper practices can lessen the surface impacts of roads, pads and pipelines. NACo would encourage land managers to routinely monitor these drilling areas to ensure compliance with existing regulations and assist in determining the impacts to air, water, public health and wildlife.”

I would like to thank those who provided information to me that allowed for an intelligent discussion at the federal level. We are all anxious to learn more about the new technology that allows frac’ing at greater distances; I have been told that this will allow for 640-acre spacing, rather than the current 40 acres we are experiencing in Garfield County.

The resolution I brought forward to support hydraulic fracturing without the use of toxic fluids was discussed at length in the EELU Committee and presented to, but not discussed in, the Public Lands Committee. Many members of the EELU Committee, and most specifically the Energy Subcommittee, did not feel comfortable taking a strong position against frac’ing with toxic fluids. Because I believe it is critically important that we, as counties, are able to weigh in on this and other similar issues created by energy development, I accepted the recommendation to move this discussion from my specific resolution to our EELU Platform.

We instead negotiated language under our section entitled National Energy Policy to read: “NACo seeks a comprehensive and integrated approach to a national energy policy that: … Allows local governments to play a central role in the formulation of local environment, energy and land use policies …”

Although the resolution I brought forward was not passed, the enabling language in the EELU Platform did pass, and will allow us to support legislation that addresses concerns raised by the resolution. Apparently Commissioner Martin would have enjoyed seeing my “head handed to me.” However, I am pleased to announce that a healthy and intelligent national discussion occurred around my resolutions.

While I agree that Hawaii is an unusual location for a conference, I certainly see the value of attending state and national meetings. Many issues and challenges facing Garfield County are being worked on or have been resolved by other counties in our country. It is invaluable to learn from others’ struggles and successes, and I believe directly benefits participating counties. Additionally, it is important that counties continue to identify common concerns that we can carry forward as one voice to the congressional level.

Although Commissioner Martin’s trip to Hawaii was characterized as being paid for by the “association,” it actually was covered by county funds. As a county we were assessed $6,374 by Colorado Counties Inc. specifically for the purpose of paying for travel to conferences for the CCI Public Lands Committee.

Thank you for your continued communication on issues of concern and the great support you show me as one of your county commissioners.

Tresi Houpt is a Garfield County commissioner.

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