Thursday, September 3, 2009

Am I being mistaken for Diana DeGette?

So today in the Telegraph, it stated in the "Quick'n'Dirty" section, third paragraph down under the "Scott Graham vies for commission" section it reads: "In sharp contrast to Riddle, he noted that the safety and security of La Plata County's drinking water supplies-municipal as well as rural-currently are threatened by proposed natural gas drilling and the potential pumping of hydraulic-fracturing chemicals. Plans to drill in the nearby Perins Peak State Wildlife Area, a mere half mile away from the streams that could contaminate Durango's Drinking water, are of particular concern to Graham."

Okay, so here I have the opportunity to make a choice after reading this little snippet. Do I just ignore that allegation and hope that most people would think it ridiculous (because it is really) or shall I respond? I have been of the opinion that it's best to not respond to some things--but the blog-thing somehow seems different, so here's what I think. I may veer around a bit, but I'll come back to that quote.

I was out riding my bike tonight and I got to wondering about how many people have contacted Representative DeGette urging their support of her hydraulic fracturing bill. She has introduced the bill every congress since 2005 and hasn't moved it forward. As a county commissioner, I had the ability to vote in favor of a nonbinding resolution urging the support of this bill---NOT voting literally for or against this legislation. Hence, my question: Am I being mistaken for Diana DeGette? Do some people think that I have more authority than I really do? It seems that, in some people's mind, the issue of hydraulic fracturing has turned into something that I alone have control over and that my vote on a nonbinding resolution in favor of Federal Legislation would have caused the bill to magically work its way through both the House and Senate and be turned into law. ("nonbinding" is exactly what it says: meaning that our local vote would have little to no effect on the actual passage of this bill - it's up to Congress to do that!- not a board of county commissioners!- for Pete sakes!) I feel like some people will blame me for the demise of this bill, should that occur. I know that may seem a little far fetched, but I really think so. To put it another way, it seems that certain members in our community think that I could have voted this into law on July 14th--which is really far from the truth.

I would like to ask Representative DeGette if people are contacting her about this proposed legislation, but when attempting to email her I was turned away for not having a zip code that is within her district. How many people from La Plata County have contacted her or Representative Salazar, and our other federal legislators? I know that I have had many people tell me that this is important to them (and many more who haven't said anything at all) I just hope they are telling the people with the authority to act upon it and move it forward or suggest another way to approach the issue. I have urged Governor Ritter and both Senator Udall and Congressman Salazar to help problem solve the current situation.

As far as my jurisdiction goes, I am proud of our Chapter 90 Land Use Code Rules regulating Oil and Gas. It was a unanimous vote by the commission to pass them close to a year ago now and they have been touted as some of the best. Because of my vote (and my fellow commissioners') those rules were then adopted and are being implemented today. They have even been looked to and replicated in part, by other counties as well as the state. I am clear on my jurisdiction with respect to the county and will continue to do what I can to foster good relationships between surface and mineral owners within our land use arena. I will also continue to advocate for a proven science based approach--such as a study, or at least a review of the current data available by an entity such as the National Academy of Sciences as an alternative or interim step relating to Representative DeGette's bill.

Now, just to close out---I do care about safe drinking water in both the municipal ( the municipalities have some responsibility in this) as well as the rural areas of the county (we have some great water providers). I also know that we have good state and local agencies that care about our water resources as well, and help in a myriad of ways to ensure that we have a safe and good supply of water. I know that it's vitally, lifegivingly (don't think that 's a word) important to every aspect of our lives.

I also care about the Perin's Peak Wildlife area for many reasons---that's why I brought the resolution requesting that we do not allow drilling in the area to the Board of Commissioners for consideration and---yes, I voted in favor of it. That also, was a non-binding resolution, because it's out of my jurisdiction. When discussing this resolution prior to a vote, we heard from the Energy Council that no company had interest in bidding on those leases at that time (or she didn't think anytime in the near future)---so I think we need to focus on a way to urge them to be permanently removed from the list and protected. I would work for that end and have been talking to Congressman (he has the jurisdiction) Salazar's office about it for a few months now. I love that area and get up there as much as possible---Dry Fork Trail was one of my first mountain bike rides and remains one of my favorites. I am glad that this is a priority for Scott Graham as well as San Juan Citizen's Alliance and hopefully others.

So to end the late night discussion on hydraulic fracturing and mistaken identities, I may look a little bit like Diana DeGette, I am an elected official--but we don't have the same job and I don't have the ability with my vote to enable federal legislation. I do also know that I have an ability to advocate for my community in a unique way--which is why I am urging all of us to work together and find a solution (if we don't have one in place already) that will stand the test of court.


  1. Keep framing the debate, Joelle, instead of allowing others to frame it for you. You made the first step in that direction by "finding" your political independence. Many of us out here who are weary of the partisan rhetoric and the local Democrats' chaos and mayhem find your move to Independent refreshing. Recent letters to the editor from the party faithful prove just how silly they think we are. Who, in their right mind, wouldn't support and protect clean drinking water. You're absolutely correct that local resolutions won't enable federal legislation. I consider that showboating for votes. Keep up the excellent work for your constituents and start thinking about running for higher office.

  2. I doubt that you could be mistaken for Rep. DeGette, don't flatter yourself. According to Rep. DeGette's office, the above mentioned bill has been introduced once previously, that being last year. NOT three times since 2005 as you assert.

  3. Thanks for posting a comment and it really has nothing to do with flattery and everthing to do with jurisdiction and who really has the ability and authority to create federal legislation. I was taking the information from an interview that she recently did while at a conference in Colorado. Here is the link:

    DeGette herself states that she has been working on the issue for several sessions since 2005.

  4. Joelle, I guess you are missing the point. Nobody would mistake you for Dianna DeGette nor would think you have the ability to end hydraulic fracturing (which frankly is not even being bantered about) or reduce the use of toxic chemicals in fracing fluids (which is the issue). A resolution from our county commissioners would show SUPPORT for the bill and perhaps knowing that the counties support the bill, our legislators would be encouraged to sign on. That is the point.

  5. I would respectfully disagree about the point, I do however, agree with the majority of people (as even a recent poll's results found) in our area that we need to make sure we have safe and responsible extraction of our resources as well as a healthy environment, and that includes our water. From the data that I have studied there have been numerous tests that have taken place at both the state and local level that would have given us an indication that there were fracturing fluids in our drinking water or wells. I am still in favor of a National Academy of Sciences study---if not for the very reason that we first need to compare the regulations and testing as well as the practices that do or do not exist in every state and county where drilling occurs. I know that the state of Colorado has some of the most exhaustive reulations, protocols and testing in place compared to other states. It would stand to reason that the state level is the best place to start. It would also seem to allow for a more speedy remedy, especially in those areas that are proving that there are problems. The individual states would be more nimble than the Federal Government. Has anyone thought of the potential that the state of Colorado and La Plata County are best practices to be replicated? I brought up the potential of using our area as a pilot in a nationwide study when speaking to Senator Udall a few weeks ago. If we have the relationship with the oil and gas industry to allow us to work together, why not partner to do a more indepth study and analyzing of the data we already have before jumping to more regulation?

  6. Apparently the COGCC disagrees with your assertion that fracking issues are a local or state issue.