Tipton refuses to sit on sidelines

The future of the oil shale industry won’t be determined at a congressional field hearing that 3rd District Rep. Scott Tipton has arranged to be held in Grand Junction Aug. 24.

As David Abelson, of the conservation organization Western Resource Advocates said, “It’s not congressional policy, it’s not who happens to be Interior secretary, it’s the rock” — and technological innovations for extracting fuel from that rock — which will determine when oil shale production is commercially feasible.

Even so, Tipton’s hearing can provide important insight on congressional policy and policies of Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. Many people associated with oil shale fear Salazar’s proposals are aimed at curbing federal leasing and thereby limiting any oil shale industry that might develop.

We have had our disagreements with the congressman, most recently in his “No” vote on the final version of the debt-limit agreement. (He supported an earlier version, and we agreed with him on that.) But Tipton did offer a reasoned argument for why he voted against the final debt-limit bill.

More importantly, he was back in his district Friday — in Grand Junction, to be precise — holding a Town Hall meeting where he was available to defend his action to all comers, regardless of their political beliefs. He held another meeting in Cortez Monday, and he has one scheduled in the Democratic stronghold of Pueblo for Aug. 25.

One can’t accuse the congressman of ducking his constituents in the wake of a controversial vote.

Additionally, Tipton has taken a lead on such issues as pushing for designation of a national monument at Chimney Rock in southwestern Colorado, and seeking a new federal audit on how recreation fees collected on public lands are spent.

There will no doubt be a good bit of politics involved in his oil shale hearing in Grand Junction later this month. But federal policy decisions on how we use our public lands are, by their nature, political.

However, the hearing is also an opportunity for industry representatives to present their latest information on technological advances and environmental challenges related to oil shale. And, it’s a chance for conservation groups and others to voice their concerns about potential problems with the industry.

Love him or loathe him, Scott Tipton is not sitting on the sidelines when it comes to major issues involving his district. That’s something most of his constituents should appreciate, even if they disagree with his political views.


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