PI Editorial: County commission’s efforts to seek a seat at Colorado’s regulatory table justified, to a point | PostIndependent.com

PI Editorial: County commission’s efforts to seek a seat at Colorado’s regulatory table justified, to a point

Post Independent Editorial Board

Energy development is unlikely to return to its heydays in Garfield County.

Even as 2021 saw a rise in demand following a significant pandemic-related drop in 2020, extraction-driven energy sources such as natural gas and coal were already in decline.

That’s not to say natural gas and coal will be obsolete anytime soon, and as long as there is a continued market for such resources it makes sense for Garfield County to have skin in the game.

Right now, that’s being led by our three commissioners, who are advocating to make sure Garfield County doesn’t end up suffering economically from regulations they see as a better fit for Front Range communities.

Those efforts have come with bills for attorneys, advocacy firms, academic researchers and more — which are being paid out through the county’s oil and gas mitigation fund.

Opponents of the county commission’s pushback against some state regulations are bothered not just by what they see as an effort to fight the future at the expense of our western county communities in particular but also because of how the commissioners are funding those efforts.

Overall, spending by the county commissioners to advocate for what they see as our economic needs is a small part of the multimillion-dollar fund (the fund’s balance currently sits at $15.5 million). And it’s not all “drill here, drill now” from the commissioners. They have also used oil and gas mitigation funds to help the county’s efforts to keep RMI from expanding its quarry near Glenwood Springs.

Even as county commissioners work to advocate for rules that they see as a best fit for Garfield County, we’re also seeing more and more green energy develop throughout our region, and we will likely see even more in the years to come.

But the sun doesn’t set at the flip of a switch, and neither will the need for natural gas be here today and gone tomorrow, given the vast reserves that lie beneath Garfield and other Western Slope counties.

As we transition to more and more renewable resources, it makes sense for the county to seek the best seat they can get at the table.

That doesn’t mean such efforts are immune from the sunk cost fallacy, however. Like any taxpayer-funded effort, it’s good to review consistently and make sure it’s a wise use of the people’s money. A review of what commissioners see as successes and failures in those efforts from 2019 through 2021 would be a good way to start off discussions on what to fund in 2022 and beyond.

The Post Independent editorial board members are Editor Peter Baumann, Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud, and community representatives Mark Fishbein and Danielle Becker.

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