On Feb. 21, the president of Gunnison Energy tried to tell our community that oil and gas development does not conflict with our existing local economies of agriculture and outdoor recreation, and won't affect our brand or quality of life. As a local resident, farm worker, search and rescue EMT, biologist, and avid outdoor enthusiast, I see things much differently.
I don't want to ski, hike, bike, hunt, or fish next to an oil pad. Does he really think people are going to travel to our area to recreate among gas wells when they have so many other destinations to choose from? I don't want to eat food grown and raised among and downstream of gas wells. Does he think buyers of North Fork Valley food products won't go elsewhere because they believe our products are contaminated? I don't want to buy a home among or downstream of gas wells. Does he think other home buyers, especially those looking to raise a family here, won't feel the same way?
For the past 15 years, the number of oil and gas wells upstream of the NFV has never exceeded 20 active wells. With the newly-approved Bull Mountain Plan, and the proposed North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan, we're looking at the number of wells increasing to over 200, plus at least four wastewater injection wells. The industry and regulators cite a potential for over 2,000 wells being developed in our watershed, the lifeblood of the valley. Compatibility between our existing economies with a dozen active wells does not "prove" compatibility when the number of wells is increased by 10 to 100 times.
Contrary to what some highly-paid industry executives proclaim, those of us opposed to large-scale oil/gas development in our headwaters are not "activists." We are not paid to fight oil and gas. We are not "eco-snobs" or "eco-elites." I am just a normal concerned resident of Delta County, trying to scratch out a living and enjoy the high quality of life here that includes outdoor recreation, hunting, fishing, gardening, raising livestock, drinking some of the cleanest water in Colorado, and enjoying the breathtaking views this valley has to offer (especially those sunsets!).
The cost/benefit analysis published by Citizens for a Healthy Community shows us that the assumptions used by our county commissioners and other supporters of oil/gas development to back their claims of an economic benefit to our county may not be correct. I think it's very important to make sure that if we're putting our future at risk, then we are absolutely certain we are actually going to realize an economic benefit out of the deal. Even if it was determined that there would be some economic benefit, how large the economic benefit would have to be for it to be worth risking our water and air quality, our agriculture and recreation, our health and our way of life?