David O. Williams’ article in The Colorado Independent exposes the hard core politics in Garfield County. As Local Control Colorado and Colorado Community Rights Network gear up in support of ballot initiatives designed to put more controls on oil & gas production in the hands of local governments, Garfield County environmentalists cannot be blamed if they cringe — or in some cases shudder violently. We know all too well the horrors of local control in a county where politics and oil & gas go hand-in-hand. This is a cautionary tale for all Coloradans. Be careful what you wish for.
Be sure to click through and read the whole article. Williams reveals the iron fist the industry holds on the politics and the media in this county but I can tell you from my own experience the situation is far worse than his article describes – far, far worse.
Residents of the second-most drilled county in Colorado warn backers of eleven “local control” ballot questions to be careful what they wish for, because oil and gas money will funnel into local races, they say, stacking county commissions and city councils in the industry’s favor.
Former Garfield County Commissioner Trési Houpt, a Democrat voted out of office in 2010 in favor of pro-jobs, pro-drilling candidate Tom Jankovsky, says the all-Republican three-member board – swept into power by local drilling companies’ corporate campaign spending – consistently has put the industry ahead of public health and the environment.
“We have a current county commission that’s made the decision that they want to make this industry happy and has gone out of its way to accommodate them,” Houpt said. “They’ve taken the side of the oil and gas industry in all disputes. They don’t research the concerns that people have about the impacts that oil and gas can have on water and air and land.”
Houpt, who also previously served on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) – the state’s chief oil and gas regulatory agency – says counties already have a great deal of land-use authority over drilling operations and can, if so inclined, control all of the drilling transportation and infrastructure surrounding the well pad itself.
“So the truck traffic, the haul routes, the compressor stations, water-treatment facilities, any type of ancillary facility that is constructed to support the well that is on the well pad can be and should be regulated by the county,” Houpt said. “I was never able to get our commission to go to that extent.”
Having been consistently on the wrong end of 2-1 votes favoring industry, Houpt says there may be only one way for Garfield County to even the playing field: winning what’s known as “home rule.”
Home rule counties are self-governing and can add more commissioners, in contrast with statutory counties that operate according to Colorado Revised Statutes and are limited to three-member boards …
“With bad laws and good civil servants it’s still possible to govern. But with bad civil servants even the best laws can’t help.” — Otto von Bismarck