Udall, Hickenlooper visit Western Slope

Sen. Mark Udall meets future job seekers at the Collbran Job Corps on Tuesday.

Several Western Slope communities played host to two prominent Democrats on Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall came west to gather information about jobs related to renewable energy projects.

Denver Mayor John Hickenloop-er stopped by to find out what the region’s been up to since he worked out here as an oil and gas geologist in the 1980s.

Both said they will leave the area with a better understanding of what’s on people’s minds here.

“You see people who are succeeding, you see people who are struggling, but in either case there’s a willingness to keep going,” said Hickenlooper, who made his first trip to this end of the state since entering the governor’s race. “My point in coming out here was to listen and to get different perspectives.” The mayor’s tour has taken him through Somerset to see coal mining operations, Paonia to talk on a local radio station, Hotchkiss to meet with civic leaders and Grand Junction to tour the Leitner-Poma cable-transportation plant near the airport.

Today, he’ll visit gas fields in the Piceance Basin and meet with business leaders on his way back to the Front Range.

Meanwhile, Udall stayed overnight in Grand Junction after a long day of visiting locales focused on creating green jobs.

He learned about cooperative farms being operated by solar panels in Glenwood Springs, shook hands with students at the Collbran Jobs Corps, viewed a unique way to deal with wastewater at the Clifton Sanitation District and met with business leaders in Grand Junction.

“I learned that people who want to band together and build a solar farm, they don’t qualify for the tax credits,” Udall said. “I’m going to introduce a bill that would fix that.”

Udall said it felt a bit strange coming to the state’s center of coal mining and natural gas drilling to learn about green-energy jobs. Still, he and Hickenlooper said folks who work in those industries shouldn’t feel as if leaders in Denver or Washington, D.C., have abandoned them in favor of renewable energy.

“I don’t see this transition to a new energy economy as being mutually exclusive with our need to have more oil and gas,” Hickenlooper said. “We’re not going to get solar and wind and such probably not in 10 years. It’s going to take some major renovations to get there. In the meantime, we need to find fuel.”


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