Tough love for John Martin |

Tough love for John Martin

Lisa Bracken

Dear Editor,

Well John, I’d say that I don’t know what to say. I’d say I’m speechless, but, the fact is, your recent display of what can only be seen as ignorance has fast forwarded what I had hoped could wait a little longer.

Why did you vote to allow Encana to build evaporative ponds on Fazzi’s property, south of Silt, in their effort to capture and retain subsurface water, which to my knowledge is spoken for, protected and the potential residential uses of which supercede that of industrial use?

This has been one of Colorado’s worse droughts in history, and in an average month, some 756 million (yep, that’s million, folks) gallons of water are dredged out of the substrata along with god knows what all else, and 20 percent or so of which is potentially “sold” as product?

Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot to you, but I bet it would have seemed like life itself to a few hundred trout, benefitting from natural underground flows yet to be defined in terms of ecological interdependency.

Oh well, I’m sure that should residential wells start to dry up, someone will complain – at least those who know enough to file on the water at the bottom of the well. Or, maybe the whole valley will drop into a sink hole – or should I say stink hole.

The problem, John, is that we just don’t know what will happen – although, the folks in New Mexico and California are finally getting a clue. I imagine that, by now, some towns have had to re-print new brochures reflecting an elevation change. The idea is that when in doubt, `tis better to err on the side of caution.

Although I was unable to attend the recent commissioner’s meeting, I sent a letter to you in my stead, in fact a letter addressed to all commissioners (Walt was still sadly on board, and I’m afraid Larry seems beyond hope); and yet, in the face of all reason and proven negative impact, you bought the glossy sell (mannequins in raincoats and all).

I am so disappointed, as I had foolishly hoped you knew better, or would at least make an effort to learn. Even if the vote had been 2 to 1, you could have stood on moral ground with your defiant fist held high. You wouldn’t have stood alone, as I and many others would have stood with you.

But now, I guess you’ve chosen to stand with an industry blinded by the bottom line. I must therefore bring these urgent issues before the public; for, perhaps you are merely symptomatic of a broad apathy or sense of unknowing.

Further, I am once again facing the proposition of running as your opposition in `04. As I stated in our phone conversation and still stand behind, I would much rather vote for you, as I have in past elections, and support you. But now, I must question your ability to look out for our collective interests.

John, maybe you and the citizens of Glenwood Springs and beyond feel safe from the effects of the onslaught brought about by oil and gas development in our county. But it is foolishly naive to believe that you are immune. This valley was founded on mining interests. That is a very old precedent, and, in your bold stroke of defense for this county, yet again, seemed to have disregarded your authority to regulate land use.

See, special use permits are just that – they require special permission, since they are asked for under special circumstances. Something otherly than the old regular uses. This and this alone may be the county’s greatest and perhaps ONLY in-road toward controlling what this widely-thought-of-as-renegade industry has in store for us all.

Have you and the board thought at all about property taxes, and the residential revenue they represent toward critical infrastructure and sound management of resources? I mean, golly, the average land owner pays, like, 98 percent of the taxes as a property owner, but oil and gas – who tromp all over the land, tear it up (on the surface and below), don’t live here and are usually represented by multi-national interests, have to pay, what is it, like, 2 percent! Geeze Louise.

Here’s a hypothetical scenario to ponder: “Oil and gas has just set up shop on my place. Now, no one seems to want to live here – least of all the wildlife. If I can’t sell my place, maybe I can still re-finance to pay for my trip out of this dump – oops, maybe I can’t. Gee, so much for my investment. I’m packin’ my bag and hittin’ the road. Who needs to invest in this crap? Or raise kids here? Or build a business? How many tourists want to drive 1000 miles to look as gas wells?” End Scenario.

From my own experiences, public perceptions regarding this industry and the way they do business are not warm and fuzzy. Policy makers cannot ignore it any longer. I don’t doubt that you are interested in preserving the integrity of this county, so stand up for the land owners who helped elect you to represent them – those coughing up plenty into county coffers and watching agriculture displaced by industrial activity.

Form and join a coalition of oil- and gas-producing counties. Set forth rules to protect land use and defend the ones in place. Simply follow the lead set by Delta and other Colorado counties.

It appears to me, until this industry recognizes the meaning of respect for individuals’ safety and welfare, not to mention property rights, and the health and importance of our fragile environment; and, until policy makers and government leaders, such as yourself, truly work to initiate reform and protect the rights of citizens, guys who vote as you and the others at your flank have will be building your big, new offices with revenue produced exclusively from the cloud of fumes that already seems to be distorting your view.

That is, at least, until the few producing holes dry up, in what, fifteen years maybe? Then, I guess whoever’s left standing will be getting a pay check from the superfund. But, I bet you guys will be long gone by then, huh?

This isn’t an attack, John, this is “tough love.” Get it together before it’s too late.

Lisa Bracken


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