Telephone survey mystifies both sides of oil and gas debate
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
A telephone survey that has mystified both sides of the oil and gas political divide in Garfield County will be explained this week, according to a media consultant hired by the firm that conducted the survey.
The survey, conducted by the Western Colorado Area Health Education Center (www.wcahec.org) asked questions related to a recently released draft of a Health Impact Assessment regarding the Battlement Mesa community.
Antero Resources, one of the drilling companies operating in the Piceance Basin gas patch, is planning to drill up to 200 wells in the neighborhood, and the Garfield County government sponsored the HIA as part of an effort to determine whether drilling near homes poses health hazards for residents.
The survey apparently got started early in October, judging by a flurry of inquisitive e-mails.
A county democrat, citing a friend who was called for the survey, wrote on Oct. 1 of asking the friend “if he got the feeling that Antero was measuring public sentiment, but he couldn’t tell for sure what the source may be.”
David Ludlam, director of the Western Slope office of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry organization, also asked the Post Independent if there was any news as to the identity of those conducting the poll, or paying for it.
“That there are those who seek to politicize the HIA process is no surprise,” wrote Ludlam in a prepared statement. “But the fact that it’s happening before a final HIA is released is concerning.”
He wrote that the WSCOGA’s goal is that “the HIA remains a public health tool instead of a political campaign tool.”
But the WCAHEC is not linked to either side of the debate, according to media consultant Allyn Harvey, who has been hired to set up a dial-in news conference about the survey on Oct. 13.
“This survey provides an overview of citizen concern about health issues related to energy development,” wrote Harvey in an announcement. He explained that there were some 2,300 respondents throughout the county, and that the identity of the sponsor of the survey will be revealed in the press briefing.
Reached by telephone, Harvey denied helping to conduct the survey or formulate the questions, although some observers have made that accusation.
“It’s not as nefarious as people would think,” he said when told his name has been linked to the survey, and that both critics and supporters of the gas industry were concerned about the matter.
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The Two Rivers Community Foundation based in Glenwood Springs awarded $11,000 in grants to various area nonprofit organizations last year.