Rancher: Coalitions key to taking on gas drillers | PostIndependent.com

Rancher: Coalitions key to taking on gas drillers

Tweeti Blancett, a New Mexico rancher profiled by People magazine for taking on natural gas companies, will urge Garfield County residents to build coalitions during a visit to New Castle on Friday.

Blancett said these coalitions can seem to be “unholy alliances” between ranchers, environmentalists and others concerned about the environmental impacts of natural gas exploration and production.

“But it’s important for those groups to get together,” Blancett said in a telephone interview from her home in Aztec, N.M.

Blancett’s talk and a question and answer session are set for 7 p.m. Friday at the New Castle Community Center, 423 W. Main St. It is presented by the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, and Western Colorado Congress. A dessert reception follows Blancett’s talk.

Blancett, 57, is a sixth-generation rancher. She and her husband, Linn, own a 38,000-acre ranching operation on public and private land in northwest New Mexico. They also own a motel, construction company and livestock company.

Blancett laughed when she said her New Castle talk isn’t part of a bigger speaking tour. She has a full-time job, but makes presentations out of concern for the environment.

“I have a motel in Aztec to run, and a farm and ranch,” Blancett said. “I got involved because the gas companies were destroying our ranch. I try to respond when I’m called to tell my story.”

Blancett told her story to television newsman Tom Brokaw, and to People magazine.

The People article, dated Oct. 14, 2002, was headlined “A Cowgirl’s Cause: GOP stalwart Tweeti Blancett battles energy companies over the environment.” In the article, Blancett said natural gas company activities wiped out vegetation, polluted water, killed livestock, and caused financial hardship.

She is described as a “staunch” Republican, but hooked up with environmentalists after her ranch was damaged from coal bed methane gas drilling.

In 2002, she testified before Congress to oppose White House efforts to open more public land to drilling. Blancett said she will also address congressional staff during an upcoming environmental conference organized by the University of Colorado Natural Resources Law Center.

Blancett’s main advice to residents affected by the natural gas industry is to find a common goal, whether they are ranchers or environmentalists. One of her main allies these days is an environmentalist who wants the government to eliminate all federal grazing permits on public lands.

“Now, I’m working with her,” Blancett said.

Peggy Utesch, a Grand Valley Alliance member who lives in an area impacted by gas exploration south of Silt, said her group asked Blancett to speak because she urges disparate groups to work together.

She said Blancett will also explain how companies can drill and produce natural gas in an environmentally sound way.

“It’s possible to do it without destroying people’s lives,” Utesch said.

Blancett’s talk is the second oil and gas industry related presentation in western Garfield County this week. EnCana Oil and Gas presents “Energy Expo 2003” from 3-8 p.m. today at the Garfield County Fairgrounds in Rifle.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534


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