Email letters, May 1, 2012

Oil shale industry has paid for many improvements

I’ve been perplexed by the continuous battles about the future of oil shale in Colorado highlighted in recent newspaper articles. I started in the oil shale industry in Garfield County in the 1950s, worked on oil shale projects here through the 1980s, and recently became involved in new oil shale venture on one of the BLM’s RD&D projects. During these times, oil shale contributed to the vitality of downtown Rifle and surrounding areas, and key infrastructure projects funded by the industry provided significant improvements that continue to benefit us today. I have also seen the positive results of increased number of high-paying jobs and tax revenues on the local area.

During the 1970s, the oil shale trust fund contributed over $100 million to affected communities for roads, schools, hospitals, city buildings, and water treatment plants. Mesa County governments received over $16 million, and Rio Blanco county governments received over $35 million. Rifle alone received $2 million for the Highway 13 bypass and an estimated $10 million dollars for various expenses. In addition, Exxon spent over $100 million to build a new town and schools near Parachute, and Unocal built apartment buildings and schools and supported other local governmental expenses in the Parachute and Rifle area — all without any tax dollars.

Although the termination of the Colony project in 1982 (Black Sunday) was devastating for many, the Unocal project operated until 1991 and provided a continuing source of employment for thousands. Moreover, all the infrastructure improvements funded by oil shale remained after 1991 and provided a foundation for eventual recovery of the local economies. The Rifle bypass, for example, was critical for the uranium tailing remediation projects. The old Unocal plant provided infrastructure for the American Soda project, parts of which are now operated by Solvay and Encana. Also, the stress of the recent natural gas boom would have been far more painful without the infrastructure paid for by oil shale development funds.

Modern oil shale projects will be more phased in development and will require far fewer employees due to process improvements and advances in automation. Companies universally support the use of advance contributions to local infrastructure that can be applied as a credit to later bonus and royalty payments as a way of making sure that the infrastructure is available when needed.

It is time to take a more balanced view of our past and move on to a well-planned future involving stepwise development of oil shale.


Gambling is not an engine for creating wealth

Special interest groups are trying to pass HB 1280 as a jobs creator, but the bill would have a lot of negative impact because it would expand gambling on the Western Slope. It is a black hole for wealth not an engine for creating wealth.

Wealth is created by extraction and use of mineral resources, agriculture, ranching, the timber industry, manufacturing, science and technology. These things enhance and advance people’s lives.

Gambling has been limited in Colorado for good reason. The gambling habit deteriorates the well-being of families and communities. It is common knowledge that gambling is a magnet for prostitution, drugs and increased crime. The Western Slope has been a wonderful place to live and raise families. Most people like it that way and want to preserve that heritage. Just a few years ago, gambling was voted down by 78 percent of Mesa County residents and 81 percent of Colorado.

Who is pushing this unhealthy habit? Is it the operators who would keep 70 percent of the “winnings”? Meanwhile, the taxpayers would be charged for all the fallout of increased crime and social services needed to provide for the destroyed families that will inevitably follow in its wake. In these perilous economic times we don’t want to gamble on this.

Some will say you can’t legislate morality. Really? Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t slander. Every law on the statute books is an example of enacted morality or it is procedural thereto. It’s not a question of is morality being legislated, but whose morality is being legislated?

John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. Our constitutional republic has been undermined too much already. Please urge your representatives to vote against HB 1280.

Grand Junction

Recent exoneration shows need to eliminate capital punishment

Recent exoneration of Robert Dewey for the murder of Jacie Taylor in 1994 is a considerable substantiation in the argument for eliminating capital punishment. We can be thankful that he was acquitted of first degree murder by the jury in favor of felony murder then sentenced by the judge to life in prison without the possibility of parole, making his release possible.

Capital punishment is irreversible. A life sentence without parole allows us as a society the opportunity to find and admit an error while release of a prisoner is disallowed until resolution is attained in court. There is no possible recompense if a mistake is made by executing the condemned.


Don’t blame educators for education spending

With regard to Harold. Coombs comments about education and politicians and who did what concerning support and spending on programs please feel free to kick the politicians, media, some Democrats and GOP members. You can even include some parents and grandparents, but layoff the educators.

To make a statement “education has declined from 1965-2012,” reflects on misinformation or just plain ignorance. Today’s educators are teaching far more to students than thought possible in 1965 and students today are far more intelligent in terms of information available for them to absorb. Not to mention the technological advancements which were not even dreams in 1965.

If someone wants to find out where those trillions of dollars have been spent look up “special programs” which for the most part serve a minority of students and are directed away form the general student population.
Don’t blame educators for lawmakers blunders.

There are far too many politicians, media and societal members criticizing education and professional educators for the shortcomings professed by the so-called experts, most of whom have never spent one hour in a classroom as a teacher, counselor, aide or administrator.

Fact is, kids know more now than at any time in our history and education is better than ever. Educators do a damn poor job of defending themselves and all that is good with the world of education. Lame-duck school boards and professional educators should be ashamed for not standing tall to express all the great things that are happening.

Mr. Coombs and others can ask themselves one question: When students, foreign and domestic, choose their universities and colleges to further their educatio,n where do they go? I don’t have a percentage to share, but I can tell you most are choosing universities and colleges right here in the good ol’ U.S.A.

Grand Junction


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