Locals boycott stores in Silt over Antero support | AspenTimes.com

Locals boycott stores in Silt over Antero support

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

SILT, Colo. – A group of residents on Silt Mesa, angered by the Town Council’s lack of support against intensified gas drilling plans for the mesa, are boycotting stores in the town.

“I was sickened by Silt Mayor Dave Moore’s sycophantic ‘We love Antero. They are such wonderful neighbors’ speech,” wrote Silt Mesa resident Dave Pegg, referring to a presentation by Moore at a special meeting of the Garfield County commissioners on Nov. 9.

At the meeting, distraught residents of Silt Mesa and Peach Valley convinced the county commissioners to intervene in Antero Resources’ effort to increase the density of its gas wells in the area.

Antero is seeking approval from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to increase the density of wells from 1 per 160 acres to 1 per 10 acres in a 640-acre section of the area, which is located about 15 miles west of Glenwood Springs.

This is a level of drilling that exists in many parts of the county, but not in any area as heavily populated as Silt Mesa and Peach Valley, officials have said.

Residents are worried about air and water pollution, heavy truck traffic and a negative hit to their property values as a result of the gas drilling.

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Reading from a letter on Silt town letterhead, Moore informed the county that the town has “an exceptional working relationship with Antero.”

He said that the company has been “pleasant to work with” and has made “large contributions to social and civic activities” and has been “always willing to come to town meetings and answer the concerns and questions of both the town and the citizen.”

As for the density of gas wells drilled on the mesa, Moore said Silt officials “do not feel qualified to make a professional statement.”

One of Silt’s trustees, Rick Aluise, was not present at the Nov. 8 meeting of the Silt Board of Trustees where the letter was approved. He said on Wednesday that if he had been there he would not have been in favor of it.

“Not to weigh in at all, that would have been my suggestion,” Aluise said. “But I would have been outvoted.”

Several Silt Mesa residents confronted Moore during a break in the county meeting, demanding to know why the town was not supporting their opposition to Antero’s request.

“It was a highly emotional meeting,” said Moore about the confrontation. “I wasn’t surprised that there were some people that had some differing opinions.”

He stressed that he neither supported nor opposed the 10-acre drilling plan, and said he was asked by Garfield County Commissioner John Martin to be at the meeting and give Silt’s presentation.

“This is all about the money,” the money Antero gives to Silt, said Pegg in his e-mail to a long list of neighbors, referring to donations by the company to the town for a variety of purposes.

So, Pegg continued, “a simple and effective way for the citizens of unincorporated Silt Mesa and Peach Valley to fight back is to boycott Silt business.”

Others have joined in Pegg’s e-mailed call for a boycott, including Pegg’s wife, horse trainer Fiona Lloyd; outspoken Antero critic Beth Strudley; and area native Nikki Fender.

“I too … was appalled by Mr. Dave Moore’s comments,” Fender wrote in an e-mail. “He better be glad that Silt Mesa residents can’t vote him out, but be sure that we will [tell] all of our friends who do live in town not to re-elect him.”

Several Silt Mesa residents applauded, by comparison, the message read by Rifle City Council member Jen Sanborn, in which the council unanimously opposed the increase in well density.

The letter noted that an EPA study of the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing is not due out for more than a year, and that the city’s primary water intake on the Colorado River could be threatened by groundwater contamination from the dense field of wells, if it occurs.

jcolson@postindependent.com