Printed Letters, March 7, 2014
Rep. Wright deserves thanks for helping school districts
I would like to thank State Rep. Jared Wright for his efforts on behalf of Mesa County schools during the current legislative session in Denver.
After state bureaucrats gave notice that they would no longer approve District 51’s longstanding cooperative agreements with De Beque School District and Plateau Valley School District for delivery of special education services to students with disabilities, the districts asked Wright for help. He responded enthusiastically and introduced House Bill 1208 to protect these common-sense arrangements.
He also engaged with colleagues of both political parties and with educational interest groups and lobbyists to achieve bipartisan sponsorship and support for the bill. As a result, it passed the House, and it is expected to clear the Senate later this month and go on to the governor’s desk.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Wright over the past several months in connection with this initiative. He has been gracious, forthright, articulate, pragmatic and hard-working. Though he evidently has no friend in this newspaper, I would be pleased to count him as one of mine.
Monument may not compare well with expansive parks
In its editorial pages, the Sentinel has been forthright about its support for designating Colorado National Monument as a national park. The case might be summed up as “It can’t hurt.”
But the news pages should really be a bit more diligent when reporting on the subject, since we continue to have winks and nudges sent our way about the economic benefits of national park status — the recent front-page story reporting the Park Service’s annual impact estimates being a case in point.
Tourism officials say the monument “might be able to capture a significant international market” because “26 international tours a year arrive at Grand Junction Regional Airport and take buses directly to national parks in Utah without stopping.”
Diligent reporting might look at tour-bus figures for the monument over the past five years. It would discover the numbers of buses have declined on average by more than 10 percent in the past two years, compared to the previous three before the extra promotion credited in the story.
But let’s say every single international tour operator was suddenly persuaded to add an overnight to its Canyonlands tours. At full capacity, these tours might leave another $150,000 in the valley, spent mostly on hotels and food.
It wouldn’t hurt. Or would it?
Suppose these visitors, after a night on Horizon Drive and a run over Rim Rock Drive, land in Moab at a resort and then move on to the historic lodges at Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon. What will their tour surveys and social media postings say about the trip?
Right now, the monument is regarded as an undiscovered treasure. Wait until it has to live up to the hype and the comparisons with more expansive national parks.
It might hurt.
We restrict energy companies but disregard auto emissions
Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about air quality, with the main concern being ozone levels exceeding EPA standards. This is not a surprise; literally hundreds of thousands of gasoline-fueled vehicles operate in Colorado, emitting carbon that contributes to ozone formation in the atmosphere.
In contrast, the oil and gas industry is operating approximately 60 rigs in Colorado with eight of those rigs on the Western Slope, none of which operate in Mesa County. So, the Air Quality Control Commission takes up the issue and decides to establish even more restrictions on oil and gas drilling, rather than concentrate on dealing with the problem created by millions of gasoline-burning vehicles.
The current administration in Washington, D.C., has previously attempted to address air quality by investing more than $300 million in failed solar firms including Solyndra in California and Abound Solar in Colorado. If that money had been invested in Compressed Natural Gas infrastructure, just the amounts lost on those two companies alone could have gone a very long way to establishing the CNG infrastructure in Colorado, leading to increased use of CNG fueled vehicles, and the air quality would actually improve with each vehicle conversion.
As more vehicles convert to CNG usage, we will need to develop ongoing sources of fuel to service the CNG vehicles, which means we will have to drill and frack natural gas wells. However, the more restrictions we place on the drilling in Colorado, the more we will be dependent on importing the fuel from other states.
Opponents of drilling and fracking continue to whip up hysteria over the issue, while the truth is more than 55,000 wells have been drilled and fracked in Colorado over the years without one confirmed case of groundwater contamination. CNG represents our best and most feasible solution to the air quality issue until industry can develop a cleaner and yet feasible mode of transportation.