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Industry criticizes Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Post Independent fileJudy Jordan is Garfield County's oil and gas liaison.
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A Garfield County employee said this week that she feels “threatened” by oil and gas industry representatives who have gone over her head to complain to her boss about the way she does her job.

“I’ve been feeling kind of like I’m basically threatened all the time,” said Judy Jordan, the county’s oil and gas liaison, who has considerable expertise on the technical ins and outs of the industry. Jordan said she is the fourth person in her position since it was created in 2004.

The industry’s unhappiness with her performance came to light this week with the release of a Jan. 29 letter from seven gas companies to County Manager Ed Green.

The letter was signed by representatives of Antero Resources, Bill Barrett Corp., EnCana Oil and Gas (USA), Marathon Oil Co., Laramie Energy II, Noble Energy and Williams Production Co., and was critical of both the county’s Energy Advisory Board and the oil and gas liaison department.

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The industry letter said of Jordan’s work, “We have been disturbed about a perceived partiality based on past comments to the press and at certain public meetings.” No details were given.

But, the letter continued, “We had a very productive discussion between the Operators’ Group and [Jordan’s] Department in December. We are hopeful that this new dialogue will provide a forum to clear up our concerns and preclude negative comments that may have been based on a lack of understanding regarding industry issues.”

Part of Jordan’s job description, she said, is to advise the county commissioners on oil and gas issues, and to educate the public about the industry. Jordan conceded that she occasionally has made recommendations or comments that have conflicted with those of the industry.

“Part of my job is to do things that the industry doesn’t like, and they call that being ‘anti-industry,'” she remarked. “But that doesn’t make me anti-industry.”

An October 2009 performance review by Green, she said, “was about 95 percent glowing” with the exception of the comments from the industry.

She said that, among other things, she was praised for her work with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission concerning a set of new regulations written in 2008.

Plus, she said, “they felt that I had handled Rulison well,” referring to Jordan’s work in communicating with other levels of government about plans to allow gas exploration near the site of a 1969 nuclear test blast some 8,400 feet below the surface.

The blast was an effort to free up natural-gas fields trapped in the deep rock formations below Rulison which is roughly five miles west of Rifle along Interstate 70. The gas turned out to be too radioactive to be useful and the plan was abandoned, although there currently is interest in drilling close to the blast site.

The industry’s criticism of Jordan also was raised at the Feb. 16 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.

“I think the industry regards me as being a negative player in their world,” she told the commissioners.

“You’re not the Lone Ranger,” responded Commissioner Mike Samson, noting he had been contacted by “certain individuals” who charged “that Garfield County is trying to run oil and gas out. I think that’s ludicrous.”

Commissioner Tresi Houpt told Jordan, “You have the support of this commission, and the respect.”

Houpt noted that while the industry is in business to make money, the county government is responsible for public health, welfare and safety, and that the two goals sometimes are in conflict.

Contacted later by phone, Houpt said Jordan is “a very intelligent and capable employee, and she’s been representing the county well.”

Houpt added that the liaison’s job is to bring community concerns to the commissioners’ attention, and to work to resolve conflicts between the industry and area residents.

“I’m sorry the industry is feeling as if they’re getting beat up,” Houpt said, but she questioned the validity of the industry “suggesting that our employee is not doing her job.”

Commissioners Samson and John Martin each said that such matters are properly Ed Green’s responsibility, because he is the administrator in charge of personnel issues.

“I don’t want to get involved in that,” declared Samson.

Green could not be reached for comment.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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