State, national politics push Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky to consider running again
Tom Jankovsky was pretty sure he would step down after a third term on the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners in 2022, but a combination of state and national political concerns have him thinking otherwise.
“I had said (after the 2018 election) that I wasn’t going to run, and that I was going to retire from being a commissioner,” Jankovsky acknowledged in a recent interview.
“But, with what’s going on at the state level and with some of these federal issues … I am reconsidering,” he said.
Jankovsky, a Republican, has been an outspoken critic of Democratic Gov. Jared Polis of late, referring to Polis at a Jan. 30 rally in Glenwood Springs as a “dictator,” and at another conservative gathering in Rifle in mid-December as “evil.”
He even jumped into the geo-political fray at the Glenwood rally, saying he suspects China created the novel coronavirus on purpose as a “cold war” act.
Closer to home, Polis’s policy decisions around the state’s COVID-19 pandemic response, especially the public health mandates on businesses, have helped fuel Jankovsky’s ire.
Mostly, though, it’s the state’s new regulations on the oil and gas industry and its expected economic impacts on natural gas producing counties like Garfield County that mostly have him fired up.
“Nobody is calling out the governor about what is happening in our county because of Senate Bill 181,” Jankovsky said of the legislation signed into law by Polis in spring 2019, which brought about sweeping changes to the way the industry is regulated.
“It has destroyed an industry, and nobody is saying anything about that,” he said.
In particular, even after Polis came out against the 2018 Amendment 12 when he was campaigning for governor — a measure that was soundly defeated by voters — he was quick to impose some of the same measures as part of the SB 181 rulemaking process, Jankovsky noted.
In particular, while Amendment 12 called for a 2,500-foot setback for oil and gas wells and facilities from homes and schools, the 2,000-foot setback that came about in the rulemaking is just as onerous, Jankovsky said.
“It doesn’t destroy the oil industry, because they can be 2,000 feet out without a problem,” he said of resource extraction that’s more common along the Front Range and eastern plains.
“The natural gas industry that we rely on out here can’t do that,” Jankovsky said, adding that when natural gas prices bounce back, Colorado and Garfield County could be left out as a major producer due to costs associated with the new rules around siting of facilities and air quality controls.
That gets the broader issue of Colorado’s urban-rural and east-west divides, which Jankovsky believes Polis has made worse.
Garfield County, which is represented by three Republican county commissioners, has been successful in working with past Democratic governors, Jankovsky said.
Former Governor and now U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper “was completely different” in terms of recognizing Western Slope interests, he said.
“We complained over here about what was going on, and he listened to us and made some changes,” Jankovsky said, commending Hickenlooper for appointing John Swartout (now executive director for Colorado Counties, Inc.) as a mediary on Western Slope concerns.
“This governor (Polis) and the Democratic leadership in the Legislature doesn’t care about the Western Slope, in my opinion,” Jankovsky said. “Somebody needs to talk about what he’s done, and I feel like I’m the only one doing that right now.”
At the federal level, Jankovsky said he sees a return to what he refers to as a “top-down” approach to public lands management seen during the Obama administration with new President Joe Biden.
“I was in the thick of things with a lot of that out here,” he said in regards to the county’s involvement regarding protections for the greater sage-grouse and oil and gas leasing on the Roan Plateau.
“I see that all coming back now, with the same players we were dealing with in Washington and a big government, top down ‘we’re going to tell you how to run your federal lands’ approach here in Garfield County.”
Jankovsky acknowledged that another run for commissioner in two years is likely to be a “brutal election,” with a few names of potential Democratic challengers already being mentioned.
“But, I’ve been there before,” he said.
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