GarCo energy board talks of outside help to mediate conflicts

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Recent industry/resident discord on Garfield County’s Energy Advisory Board is prompting talk of hiring a professional mediator to improve how the board operates.

The idea of having a mediator meet with the board to discuss conflict resolution objectives, techniques and ground rules received a mixed reception Monday from Garfield County commissioners. Commissioner Tresi Houpt wondered whether having a mediator work with the board for one meeting, as suggested by county oil and gas liaison Judy Jordan, would be enough.

“What’s needed is a functional board and this one doesn’t sound so functional right now,” Houpt said.

Commissioner Mike Samson balked at the idea, particularly in light of Jordan’s estimate that it could cost up to $10,000.

“Paying a firm $10,000 and taking two hours to teach people how to get along, I’m not in favor of that,” he said.

Samson said he’d like to give the board an opportunity to work things out on its own, including educating members, especially new ones, about why it was created.

A chief purpose of the board is to try to resolve disputes over impacts from natural gas development. Jordan believes conflict resolution continues to occur when specific complaints are brought forward. Energy company representatives have contended that some citizen representatives have raised only general criticisms, making it difficult to respond.

Others say the board has been taken over by industry and has failed to act on specific complaints.

“It looks to me like it’s basically an industry PR machine,” county resident Linda Dixon told commissioners Monday.

Jordan said both industry and citizen representatives have threatened to quit the board based on claimed perceptions that it is dominated by the other interest group. She said if the board is to be able to resolve conflicts, it’s important that individual companies continue to be represented on the board.

Samson said he’s been impressed with how he’s seen board members operate.

“Most of what I’ve seen is those people are very rational and they listen, and of course there’s going to be conflicts — that’s why the board was created,” he said.

Commissioners didn’t take formal action on the mediator idea Monday. However, Houpt said she would like to hear a recommendation from the energy board on the matter.


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