Tipton's lease swap is bad policy

By Neal Schwieterman


Dear Editor:

As the former mayor of Paonia, I was dismayed to read about Representative Tipton's lease exchange proposal. Please let me explain. During 2014 and 2015 the leaders of Delta County, Hotchkiss and Paonia met with the staff of Senator Bennet's office to see if we could come up with a win/win proposal reference oil and gas leasing in the North Fork and Thompson Divide areas. For two years the group met, trying to hammer out a potential solution for many competing interests including: Paonia's stated interest in a valley bottom federal mineral withdrawal, SG's potential lease cancellations in the Thompson Divide area, and the Thompson Divide Coalition's interest in removing leases in the Thompson Divide area.

After many meetings and lots of work, a delegation of citizens, including myself, traveled to Washington, D.C., to present the potential solution to the Colorado congressional delegation and other affected agency leaders. In short, our proposal "died on the vine" as Representative Tipton did not support it. His prerogative. What I find appalling is that Representative Tipton now puts forward a proposal that COMPLETELY excludes his constituent's written request. On July 9, 2013, the Town of Paonia officially wrote to request the Colorado delegation to "...include in legislation the withdrawal from oil and gas leasing of publically owned minerals, including those underlie both BLM and U.S. Forest Service lands in the North Fork Valley." This request was delivered to Representative Tipton in July 2013 and hand delivered to him personally again in 2015. He knew about this letter and the hard-fought grassroots proposal that included swapping SG Interests Thompson Divide leases for an equivalent in the North Fork. Tipton has chosen to propose an action that supports his largest campaign contributor, SG Interests, (ballotpedia.org) at the expense of the very citizens and communities he was elected to represent.

Neal Schwieterman
Paonia