Sixty-percent in GarCo unhappy with energy firms

Sixty percent of Garfield County residents take an unfavorable view toward oil and gas development, according to a survey conducted for the county.

Ninety-two percent of respondents also called for oil and gas development to pay a fee to offset effects on county roads, and more than 70 percent said the industry should do the same to address affordable housing and parks and open space needs.

The results are contained in a survey a polling company conducted for the county. More than 1,000 people completed the survey, which was sent to 4,275 registered voters. It has an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.

The county will consider the survey results as it creates its new master plan. Results were presented to county commissioners Monday.

Many survey respondents identified cost of living, affordable housing, traffic mobility, preservation of rural character and water quality and quantity as some of the most important issues facing the county in the next five years.

Forty-four percent of survey respondents want the county’s rate of growth to slow, and almost 10 percent want the county to stop growing at all. The county’s population increased from 29,974 residents in 1990 to about 55,000 last year.

Linda Venturoni, whose firm carried out the survey, said it’s unusual to see more than 90 percent support for something in a survey, as was the case regarding oil and gas impact fees.

“Gosh, yeah, it’s easy to spend other people’s money,” said County Commissioner Larry McCown.

Rio Blanco County this year imposed an impact fee on new oil and gas wells, but Garfield County has resisted the idea. Instead it has supplemented its road construction budget by seeking voluntary contributions from energy companies.

The two victorious Garfield commissioner candidates in November — Mike Samson and John Martin — had opposed impact fees on oil and gas development during their campaigns.

The survey showed favorability toward the industry in the county was highest in Rifle and Parachute, two areas with high drilling activity.

Still, half of Rifle-area residents and nearly half of those in Parachute viewed the industry unfavorably.

Some county officials said Monday that the survey results focused on people’s perceptions while ignoring realities, such as what the county already is doing in areas such as affordable housing.

But county Commissioner Tresi Houpt said the survey “allows us to get even a better understanding of what the people we work for want to see happen in this county.”


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