Garfield County commissioners rescind oil shale resolution | AspenTimes.com

Garfield County commissioners rescind oil shale resolution

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County commissioners have rescinded an April 9 resolution opposing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s plans to limit the amount of acreage to be made available for oil shale leasing.

Commissioners, in a 3-0 vote Tuesday, acknowledged that notice of a March 27 meeting in Vernal, Utah, where commissioners from several Colorado, Utah and Wyoming counties joined industry representatives in drafting the resolution, was not adequately noticed.

All three Garfield commissioners attended the closed-door meeting hosted by the Uintah County commissioners.

Questions have been raised in a lawsuit filed by two citizen groups challenging the legality of that meeting, and whether proper notice was given.

“When we went to Vernal, I think we went with good intentions,” said Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson, who requested that the matter be put on Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners agenda.

“The outcome of that meeting is now headed to the courts,” he said. “I’m not a fan of litigation, especially long, protracted litigation.

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“Both sides have legitimate points to argue on this matter,” Samson added. “I believe it’s in the best interests of the county to resolve this, so we’re not wasting our time [in court].”

The Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Western Colorado Congress joined forces last month to file a lawsuit against the Garfield County commissioners, claiming the Vernal meeting was held illegally and asking a judge to nullify the resulting resolution.

Although the commissioners took public comments on the resolution at their April 9 regular meeting before formally voting on it, the groups say their minds were made up beforehand.

Commissioner John Martin said he doubts Tuesday’s decision will make the lawsuit go away.

“I don’t think we’ve done anything wrong, and I know it doesn’t end here,” Martin said in “reluctantly” voting to rescind the resolution. “This will continue all the way through the November election.”

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky also contends that the criticism is politically motivated. Commissioners Martin and Samson are both up for re-election in November against Democratic challengers.

But, Jankovsky said, it was his oversight in not getting information to county Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico that resulted in a posted notice of the Vernal meeting not including information such as the time and purpose.

“That was a mistake made by me,” Jankovsky said. “I would note that we did talk about this four different times in public sessions. We have also been very conscientious about giving notice since that meeting in Vernal.”

Jankovsky also asked that a new resolution stating the county’s objections to the BLM plans be placed back on the agenda again for a full discussion and vote. The county has been critical of the BLM’s plan to reduce the available acreage for oil shale leasing in western Colorado from around 400,000 acres to 32,000 acres.

“Garfield County has been blessed to have oil shale, and this is something that has been on the horizon for a long time,” Jankovsky said. “We have anywhere from 2 trillion to 4 trillion barrels of oil in oil shale, and a good portion of that is in our county.”

Two citizens who spoke at Monday’s meeting said the county should have a much broader discussion of the prospect of oil shale development and its impacts before passing a similar resolution.

“We’ve been working on oil shale for more than a century, and we can continue to take our time to get it right,” Carbondale resident and town Councilman Allyn Harvey said in support of the BLM’s most recent oil shale plan.

Added Glenwood Springs resident Anita Sherman, “We have many opportunities for economic development in this county, and energy extraction is just one of them.

“Outdoor recreation and tourism are just as important in how we manage our resources, and you have to consider the impacts on those from energy development,” she said.

jstroud@postindependent.com