As a Delta County resident, I would like to voice my support for the recently completed North Fork Alternative Plan regarding gas and oil drilling in the North Fork area, and encourage Delta County residents to read and endorse the plan. This citizen-developed plan was submitted to the BLM.
It is clear from reading the document that it contains common-sense limitations regarding where drilling can occur, and that these limits mean that little drilling would be allowed in the North Fork Valley if the Alternative Plan were followed. This validates what thousands of citizens of the area have been saying all along — this area is not an area where large-scale responsible drilling can logically proceed. So, what is responsible gas and oil drilling?
In my opinion, responsible drilling does not harm the air and water. The federal land which surrounds the valley is located primarily on mountains and high mesas and directly in the water and air sheds for the valley. Our currently clean air could become highly polluted due to the frequent air inversions and geologic shape of the valley. Despite the rhetoric of the energy industry about "clean gas," the data is showing major air pollution problems. For example, the recent study by the State of Utah showed air pollution levels in the Uintah Basin at average daily levels higher than the Los Angeles area in California. Spills the size of recent energy industry spills in Colorado could have major harm to the life blood of this valley, which is water. Our currently clean water supports the highest concentration of organic orchards, farms and vineyards in Colorado. A major spill directly above one of our vineyards or orchards would be a disaster for that business.
Responsible drilling does not supplant existing industries. Yesterday I spoke with one of the local vintners who said that he had sold more wine in a week this year than he sold in a month in previous years. The development of the area's wineries and organic farms is very real and is bringing in tourism at new levels, and this means jobs and revenue for Delta County. All you have to do is visit the Napa Valley in California to see what wine tourism can do for an area's economy. Just compare the tourism here with tourism in heavily drilled counties such as Garfield or Weld counties — large-scale drilling hurts tourism and tourism is a major facet of our long-term future.
Responsible drilling protects the quality of life of citizens who live in the area where drilling is occurring. This narrow valley cannot handle the level of truck traffic that it would take to have major drilling going on in the area. I live within 300 yards of Highway 133, and I can assure you that currently dozens of large trucks go through the valley each day just to support the first few wells being drilled in the McClure Pass area. The predicted level of truck traffic which would accompany large-scale drilling in the North Fork Valley would lead to industrialization of our area and would, along with other visible signs of the industry, change our area's high quality of life.
What the North Fork Alternative Plan shows us is that there are some areas of Colorado that should be exempted from large-scale gas and oil drilling. The North Fork Valley has been internationally recognized as one of those special areas in such publications as Forbes and Sunset magazines. We are currently getting visitors from many states and countries, and our great promise and future cannot be jeopardized over a 20-year supply of gas. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land in our overall area of Colorado have already been leased, such as much of Grand Mesa, and everywhere does not need to be open to drilling. The energy industry, as evidenced by the existing industry requests to drill in the North Fork Valley, does not believe that any restrictions should be placed on where it drills. We are told by the BLM that it leases first, and deal with environmental consequences later. This approach has already negatively changed many areas of Colorado, and we can't let this happen to the North Fork Valley. Please let the Delta County Commissioners, your local government, the BLM and your legislators know that you support the North Fork Alternative Plan!