As the DCI reported on July 18, the Colorado BLM has posted notice of its intention to offer nearly a quarter of a million acres of public lands for oil and gas leases. This proposed lease sale spans Colorado, and includes parcels in Delta County, Gunnison County, Mesa, Garfield, Moffat, Weld, and other counties.
Specifically, the proposed lease sale includes 7,903 acres in Delta and Gunnison counties. These are our public lands, and leasing them for oil and gas development irreversibly commits them on the path to industrialization. When a developer obtains a valid oil and gas lease, they have a guaranteed right to develop those lands for at least a decade! The decisions made at this stage are vital, and have consequences that will last decades.
Rather than seeking input from the impacted community to inform a decision that could radically alter Delta County for a generation, the Delta County Commissioners simply signed a letter offering their support for the lease sale. If the Commissioners had asked for input, they would have found that the frontline community is almost universally opposed to any increase in oil and gas development in the North Fork Valley.
This isn't speculation on my part. During the recently completed master plan revision process, the county received literally hundreds of comments expressing deep concerns about and opposition to oil and gas development in our air, water and foodsheds. They received roughly three comments in support of more oil and gas development.
The BLM did indeed reach out to the commissioners for their input. The BLM does this because elected officials are supposed to speak with their constituents' voices. You can see how this is supposed to work by looking to the Town of Paonia. There, the trustees held a series of public meetings, soliciting input from residents about if and how the town should participate in this process. The trustees for the Town of Paonia then compiled the concerns expressed by the residents and used them as the basis for their comment letter. The Delta County Commissioners didn't take that route. Not only that, but they refused to allow residents attending the meeting to comment on their draft letter.
The Delta County Commissioners could use a lesson in representative democracy, and we should hold them accountable if they are going to continue to speak on our behalf.
Associate Program Director, Citizens for a Healthy Community