Meis, Rowland square off against challengers in commission debate

Energy industry in county debated

Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis and his challenger, Dan Robinson, quarreled Friday over whether a commissioner should also have ties to the energy industry.

Meis, a Republican, and Robinson, a Democrat, debated Friday before the Mesa County Republican Party, as did the contenders for another seat, incumbent Commissioner Janet Rowland, a Republican, and her Democrat challenger, Dickie Lewis.

Meis, owner of Cordilleran Compliance Services, has a conflict of interest because he works with companies that drill for and produce natural gas from the Piceance Basin of northwest Colorado, Robinson said.

Meis sought his commissioner’s seat four years ago on the strength of his knowledge about the energy industry, and he is doing this same this time, he said.

“It’s imperative that we have someone that understands energy” on the commission, Meis said.

His familiarity with the business and the way it works with government resulted in the county receiving 45 percent of the state’s direct distribution of energy revenues that are based of the number of energy-industry employees who live in the county.

Mesa County’s other leading industries of agriculture and tourism have taken a back seat, Robinson said.

“Energy is important,” Robinson said, “but it isn’t the end of the world.”

The county is dragging its feet on drafting an energy master plan, he said.

“They’ve bought software,” but nothing more, Robinson said.

Mesa County should take greater advantage of alternative energy, said Robinson, an attorney who previously was the head of the Grand Mesa Youth Services Center.

Lewis, an attorney, said the choice before the county is a stark one.

“Do you want the population density of Hong Kong? New York? Denver? Salt Lake City?” Lewis said. “Make your decision. The rest is easy.”

A Grand Valley resident for 38 years, Lewis said he has seen the energy industry’s boom-and-bust cycles.

“We have to preserve our agricultural base,” he said, calling for more conservation easements and encouraging young people to get into agriculture. “Government can do that,” he said.

Mesa County has far more leeway to regulate drilling than Rowland or Meis have been willing to exercise, Lewis said.

The energy industry’s contributions shouldn’t be underestimated, Rowland said.

The average salary in the county went up by $2 an hour in a single year because of energy, she said.

“To insinuate otherwise is disingenuous,” she said.


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