Golden opportunity for Tipton to act in Thompson Divide |

Golden opportunity for Tipton to act in Thompson Divide

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton has a golden opportunity to his constituents in Pitkin and Garfield counties a tremendous favor while maintaining his neutrality in Thompson Divide.

Conservationists and the oil and gas companies are negotiating a possible buyout of existing leases. It comes as no surprise that the sellers — the gas companies — feel that their leases are worth more than the buyers are offering.

The Carbondale-based Thompson Divide Coalition released a study Wednesday that examines the potential of gas reserves in Thompson Divide and the economic feasibility of extracting them given high infrastructure costs. The study predictably assigned little value to the leases because of high costs of development and big risk of coming up dry. Ursa Resources Co. LLC, one of two firms that hold leases in Thompson Divide, said the study is flawed. A representative claimed the company’s own geologic assessments indicate the gas reserves are much more lucrative. The company won’t share its information.

So we have two sides in negotiations that contend they have the facts on their side —Pitkin County has weighed in with additional information supporting the conclusions reached by the Thompson Divide Coalition’s consultant. The situation appears to be a stalemate.

That’s where Tipton can step in. The Republican who represents the 3rd Congressional District has said he wants to let free-market solutions reign over the dispute over developing the existing leases in Thompson Divide. Fair enough, but he could help coax a free-market solution.

Tipton should broker an assessment of the petroleum potential in the area in question by an independent third party acceptable to both the industry on one side and the conservationists and local governments on the other side. All sides can chip in to pay for the study.

While there is no guarantee that an independent assessment arranged by Tipton would be honored during negotiations, the study would give the public valuable information in a very confusing dispute.

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