Hearings and Business Meetings
Jun 01 2006
250 North Street Grand Junction, CO Grand Junction City Hall Auditorium 09:30 AM
Mr. Craig Meis
County Commissioner, Mesa County
TESTIMONY OF MESA COUNTY COMMISSIONER CRAIG MEIS
BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
June 1, 2006 Hearing in Grand Junction, CO
First of all Welcome to Mesa County and Northwest Colorado. I hope you have learned much about oil shale, natural resource development and our community during your trip. I was added to your agenda this morning late yesterday so I will give you a very quick bio of myself. My name is Craig Meis, I’m a Mesa County Commissioner, currently the chairman of Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, and a State appointed local representative of the Strategic Unconventional Fuels Task Force. I also am a professional engineer and a graduate of the Colorado School of Mines in Chemical Engineering with over 15 years experience in the energy industry.
I would like to submit for the record this Socioeconomic Baseline Conditions Report dated November 29, 2005 and commissioned by Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado and suggest anyone else wanting to obtain a copy of this report go to AGNC.ORG. The purpose of this report was to identify and present socioeconomic indicators that may be used to evaluate the changes that might occur as the result of the development of oil shale resources in Northwest Colorado. The baseline conditions are a benchmark of existing conditions within the geographic area studied.
The geographic area encompassed by this report are Garfield, Mesa and Rio Blanco Counties. Garfield and Rio Blanco Counties contain significant oil shale resources while Mesa County is the regional trade center and is the location of many industrial support companies that are currently servicing the natural gas industry and that will support an oil shale industry. You have heard (will hear) from Commissioner Kim Cook with Rio Blanco County about the direct impact concerns of oil shale operations but let me share with you quickly some information about the indirect impacts such as a potential population explosion of which Mesa County might experience from future commercial oil shale development.
Mesa County is currently a population of about 135,000. We are one of the top 10 largest counties and one of the fastest growing in Colorado and the only County in the top 10 west of the continental divide. Our unemployment is at 3.7%, a full percentage point better than the national average and for the first time since the inception of our County Workforce Center we have been trying to recruit employees outside of our County and even our State to fill hundreds of current job openings in Northwest Colorado. Anyone who wants a job and is willing to work has a job. Our local wages are increasing along with housing starts. In short, Mesa County and Northwest Colorado is doing very well and in large part due to the emerging natural gas development. This progress however has not come to Mesa County and Northwest Colorado without its difficulties.
Any increased development whether it is a home, a cell tower, a gravel pit, a gas well, etc causes an impact but we in Northwest Colorado have continued to try and address these impacts by finding ways to mitigate them collaboratively with the various industries mainly through our State and Federal jurisdictional agencies and even through our own landuse planning policy. We are hopeful considering the development of tar sands in places such as Ft. McMurray in Alberta, Canada that we might learn from their experiences on how to plan for and operate within a potential population boom and sustain a thriving and diversified economy. We in Mesa County are limited in lands available for private development since 71% of our County is public lands. This is a mixed blessing but certainly points out the obvious challenges moving forward with a potential population explosion on the horizon. Supply and demand is going to have a tremendous impact on our local economy.
It is of no surprise to this committee, that in northwest Colorado there are many skeptics with regard to oil shale development as we have been down this road before however we do realize that the circumstances behind this journey are much different and we will remain cautiously optimistic as we recognize that you to understand the mistakes that were made in the past based upon the actions and comments of the Strategic Unconventional Fuels Task Force and this Energy Subcommittee.
In closing, I would like to leave you with one final thought and the one thing that I hope you take with you back to DC. We in northwest Colorado are currently playing a key role in our contribution of natural gas and coal resources to the nation and we are certainly willing to increase our national energy contribution with oil shale presuming that it can be done in an environmentally responsible and mutually beneficial manner but we must ask this subcommittee that you encourage our coastal states were drilling bans have been in place since 1981 and our fellow Americans in Cape Cod that oppose wind turbines to put forth their energy contribution to our nation. This energy crisis is too big for any one energy resource and certainly too big for any one area of our nation to carry the burden. We in Northwest Colorado will not be a national sacrifice zone for energy development just so Rep Sam Farr of California can make statements and I quote, “People don’t go to visit the coasts of Florida or the coast of California to watch oil wells”, well Rep. Farr they don’t come to Colorado for that either but without energy none of us will going anywhere.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.