Printed letters, Oct. 19, 2011

The Daily Sentinel’s Oct. 5 article about the environmental groups opposing energy development on the Roan Plateau was terribly one-sided, so one-sided that not once did the writer use the word that best describes why the Roan should be developed: jobs.

Western Colorado is facing the worst employment situation in the nation, and the writer could not even manage to mention that drilling on the Roan would result in hundreds of new jobs for many years? It is outrageous that environmental groups are blocking access to this vast energy resource.

The environmentalists have comfortable jobs funded by liberal donors. It is sad that they make their living opposing energy projects like the Roan that would result in jobs for the rest of us.


Grand Junction

Drilling on Roan Plateau will lead to degradation

We were surprised by The Daily Sentinel’s reporting of claims by energy company Bill Barrett Corp. in the Oct. 8 story on the Roan Plateau. Barrett official Duane Zavadil’s comments contained a number of errors about proposed gas development on the Roan Plateau.

First, Mr. Zavadil got the name of the judge wrong.  U.S. District Court Judge Krieger will be deciding the pending lawsuit — not Magistrate Judge Mix.

More importantly, the company’s environmental claims don’t pass the straight-face test.

The Roan Plateau has been recognized as one of the four most biologically rich areas in Colorado, of the same caliber as our state’s national parks and monuments.

When approving the Bush administration’s drilling plan for the Roan in 2008, even BLM staff predicted “substantial degradation” of the area. BLM’s environmental impact statement anticipated that drilling would cause irreversible losses of native trout, wilderness-quality lands, and rare species that depend on the Roan.

That forecast turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg. Shortly after acquiring the leases, Barrett announced plans to possibly drill more than 3,000 wells atop the Roan — 15 times more than BLM had considered.

That intensity of drilling will turn the Roan into an industrial zone and jeopardize the hunting, angling and recreation that sustain western Colorado’s economy when energy booms inevitably go bust.

Barrett also dredges up the false choice between economic growth and environmental protection. While we don’t know how the court case will be resolved, we do know that cancellation of Barrett’s leases can be structured in a way that won’t hurt the state’s finances.

Even without Barrett’s leases, BLM projects that thousands more wells will be drilled in the area surrounding the Roan over the next 20 years. That makes it even more important to protect islands of wildlife, rare plants and undisturbed backcountry like the Roan Plateau.


Staff Attorney


Rocky Mountain Office


Palisade ballot measures offers dilemma for voters

In reading the sample ballot, trying to figure out the options of Palisade’s two ballot issues, 2A and 2B, I have a dilemma.

Issue 2A is for a proposed transaction fee of $5 upon each transaction for purchase of medical marijuana items sold in the only dispensary remaining in Mesa County. Everyone agrees the additional levy is warranted. Of course most will vote “Yes” on 2A for the sake of helping our struggling coffers. Yes?

The second issue is 2B, whether to keep the only marijuana dispensary left in Mesa County open. “Yes” votes will remove it once and for all. “No” votes will keep it as a viable business in Palisade and will require town population to reach 4,000 before a second dispensary can be established.

Here’s my dilemma. Marijuana cardholders would be happy to keep the dispensary open. And marijuana transaction fees could generate considerable revenue for the Palisade general fund.

Issue 2A could be viewed as a discriminatory tax imposed upon a select group and product. This tax doesn’t apply for aspirin or cold medicines at the grocery store, or prescriptions at the pharmacy for that matter. It appears those who vote “No” on 2B (keeping the dispensary) will also vote “No” on 2A (tax each transaction) in order to keep the costs down. Yes?

The town administration is hoping 2A will pass, no matter what 2B does? A “No” vote on both 2A and 2B means the dispensary and patients win and the town coffers remain empty of any funds from these transactions. A “Yes” on 2B means the town coffers also stays empty because the dispensary is removed. Guess it’s simply a matter of money over image in Palisade. See my dilemma.



Sentinel missed chance to give PERA facts

On Oct. 5, I attended the annual shareholder meeting of Colorado PERA at the Two Rivers Convention Center. I was disappointed that fewer than 30 people attended, no Daily Sentinel reporter was there and that we were unable to arrange a meeting with the Sentinel editorial board.

My concern is why the Sentinel printed an article recently by the state treasurer, demonizing PERA, and did not take an opportunity to investigate the whole story, especially when it would have taken so little effort.

PERA membership totals over 478,000, with monthly pay out to retirees of $280 million. Last year, PERA paid out $3.16 billion to over 90,000 retirees, of which the average benefit was $2,900 per month.

In Mesa County alone, PERA is responsible for providing over $96 million to over 3,000 retirees a year.

For every dollar that is contributed by PERA members, $3.48 is returned to the economy at a cost of less than one half of one percent. That is a powerful economic force for Colorado and Mesa County. I think news of that magnitude would be of interest to the Sentinel. I also think it would be of great interest to every business in Mesa County as well as the Chamber of Commerce.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has been using news outlets around the state to strike fear in the taxpayers, with a political agenda of dividing the working middle class. Here was an opportunity to discover the facts about PERA and, sadly, it was lost.



Story on West End confused about minerals

The Daily Sentinel’s Oct. 8 article, “Proposed reservoirs to provide for boom in metal-rich West End” was misleading. It seemed to confuse Montrose County’s West End with Colorado’s Western Slope, of which Jim Burnell of Colorado Geological Survey spoke.

The Sentinel predicted the West End might “become the epicenter of rare-earth mineral production in the United States within 50 years,” for its vanadium, selenium, zinc, iron, tellurium, gold, copper, silver and uranium. Not one of these is a rare-earth element. Of them, only significant mineable quantities of vanadium and uranium are found in Montrose County. The others all occur in a different geologic settings in the San Juan Mountains.

The Sentinel suggested the elements listed are nine of the rarest metals found on Earth. Iron is the fourth most abundant element in Earth’s crust, and the most abundant for the entire Earth. Only tellurium and gold are among the nine rarest in Earth’s crust.

The Sentinel omitted Jim Burnell’s mention of gallium, germanium and indium, also found in the silver-lead-zinc ores of the San Juan Mountains. None is a rare-earth mineral nor among the nine rarest metals.

Isn’t anticipating that Montrose County’s West End will benefit from future mining of anything but uranium and vanadium putting the cart before the horse? Would Telluride welcome reopening the mines?

If some of the water is for those mines, taking reservoir sites might be a bit hasty. If the water is wanted only for mining uranium and vanadium, then that should be made clear.

I sincerely hope that the people deciding about future reservoirs and land-taking in western Montrose County have good information. Such decisions should not be lightly made, and should not be based on unrealistic anticipation and misinformation.


Grand Junction


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