Garfield Co. has new oil, gas liaison | AspenTimes.com

Garfield Co. has new oil, gas liaison

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Judy Jordan earned degrees in law and geology, with a minor in political science.

She has worked for employers ranging from the DuPont chemical company to state environmental protection agencies to land and watershed conservation groups. She last served as executive director of an organization in Pennsylvania that served partly as a trade association for about 100 watershed groups.

Her background has provided for plenty of learning opportunities.

“It’s kind of crazy. It’s a little bit all over the map,” Jordan said of her resume.

This summer, that map extended further, not just careerwise but geographically. Jordan was hired as Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison, fulfilling the lifelong East Coast resident’s dream of finally being able to move out west.

“I was always interested in living in the West. I was born and raised in Delaware and had taken trips to the West. My father was a geologist and loved to stick the kids in the car and drive west,” she said.

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She was taken then with the scenery and culture, but only more recently did she make up her mind where she wanted to live.

“I visited Glenwood in 2004 and decided this was really the right place, because it had so many things to offer,” she said.

She likes the idea of being able to ski, snowboard, kayak, hike and fish all in one place.

“You can even sail here,” marveled Jordan, who has done just that at Ruedi Reservoir.

But Jordan also has a job to do, and it’s a big one. Even before arriving here, she heard from some people who complained about the noise, dust and other concerns related to natural gas development, and from others who didn’t think there is a problem. Her first few months have involved a steep learning curve regarding the issues surrounding energy development.

Jordan said she spends a lot of time reviewing drilling permits.

“There’s just so many of them. I mean, there’ve been literally hundreds that have come across my desk in the last few months.

“… It does feel like there’s a lot coming at you. You’ve got the permits. There’ve been the complaints to deal with, and I’ve really tried to get out and talk to people.”

Jordan said she is expected to remain a neutral mediator on issues, and has sought input on all sides. She’s been on the job long enough to come up with some ideas of her own for possible solutions to problems.

She said she has proposed to county commissioners that the county try to work with the energy industry to develop some voluntary standards to minimize impacts of drilling. She said the concept is based partly on her experiences with DuPont, where she worked on matters such as regulatory and environmental compliance.

“Back in the early ’90s the chemical industry was getting a lot of black eyes just for a lot of practices that needed to be cleaned up,” she said.

She said industry leaders such as DuPont pushed for a code that other companies could follow. She thinks a similar approach locally could help energy development and residential development coexist in the county.

Jordan believes another approach would be for companies to work together to enforce problems caused by their contractors, such as littering and speeding. Otherwise, when a company complains to a contractor, it’s too easy for the contractor to just go to work for another company rather than change things for the better.

“I think that by all of us working together, we can resolve some of these things,” Jordan said.

Her sense is that some companies already have made huge strides in addressing concerns by residents in recent years, but many impacts still need to be addressed.

“I think there’s room for improving the situation for everybody, all the way around,” she said.

She said she has worked mostly as an advocate in the past, and working as a mediator instead has been an adjustment.

“It is difficult to try to maintain that neutrality but it’s also kind of interesting. Again, it’s another learning opportunity,” she said.