Protect Thompson Divide from drilling

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

We’ve seen what has happened to western Garfield County over the last 10-15 years, and we don’t want the same to happen to western Pitkin County. It’s as simple as that.

Vast networks of new roads, noise and air pollution, befouled drinking water and trampling of homeowners’ property rights – oil and gas development has brought jobs and a measure of prosperity to western Garfield County, but it’s a short-term prosperity that will be long outlived by the scars on the landscape and the irreparable damage to everything from wildlife populations to water quality.

So we are adding our voice to the chorus opposing Texas-based SG Interests’ request to “unitize” a handful of leases it holds in the Thompson Divide area, west and southwest of Carbondale. Conservation groups say this is a “backdoor” avenue to develop these leases and the company says it’s not, but it all amounts to potential drilling in a mostly pristine area between Sunlight Peak on the north and Coal Basin to the south.

To drilling proponents, this probably sounds like NIMBYism and, well, it is. Take a look anywhere in the Piceance Basin and ask yourself if those drilling platforms, “man camps” and bulldozed pads are what you envision for Western Colorado.

Certainly natural gas is an important fuel for the entire nation, and no thinking American would say it isn’t vitally important to develop our own energy resources. But we must balance energy development with public health and a clean environment, and the oil and gas industry has a truly abysmal record. Even now, the industry continues to stonewall those around the country who demand disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Small wonder that oil and gas executives have lost all trust and credibility with the public; they don’t know the meaning of openness, transparency or dealing in good faith.

Those reasons, and the rugged natural beauty of the area, are among the reasons that Pitkin County, the Thompson Divide Coalition, the town of Carbondale, the city of Glenwood Springs, Garfield County – yes, even Garfield County – and a variety of conservation groups support federal protection for Thompson Divide. SG has stated publicly that “We can develop these resources while protecting natural values,” but few in this region trust such statements. We’ve heard those platitudes for years, while the companies continue to hide the details of their methods from the public and oppose reasonable local and state regulation of their activities.

In fact, part of the reason that Pitkin County jumped into the fray this week was a lawsuit filed by SG Interests challenging Gunnison County’s oil and gas regulations.

Let’s take a stand in Pitkin County, and appeal to our federal representatives – Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. Mark Udall and Rep. Scott Tipton – to withdraw Thompson Divide from availability for future oil and gas leasing.