Strategy calls for coordinating efforts to support oil, gas, coal

RBC I Town and county officials, business owners and special district leaders have continued to meet this month to develop a comprehensive strategy in support of the coal, oil and gas industries in the region and country.

The latest discussions took place in a meeting Monday with the county commissioners, the Town of Rangely and representatives of Deseret Power, the Bonanza Power Plant and Moon Lake Electric Association, with the cooperatives recommending that the county and town refrain from hiring government relations consulting firms Natural Resources Group (NRG) and EIS right away, at least at the level previously being considered.
They also thanked the town and county for the support shown at two EPA public hearings held earlier this month in Utah.
The original recommendation to use the firms came from longtime county proponent Peggy Rector and Club 20 representative Tim Webber. The firms would potentially be retained by a coalition of supporters, including industry and governmental entities, in an effort to shape the groups’ support and lobby specific targets in Washington, D.C., and Colorado.
After town and county representatives spoke with executives at Deseret Power, those present agreed that good progress had been made in the Title V Permit discussion for the Bonanza Power Plant through the strong showing at the hearings and that Deseret Power should now pursue the negotiations for a few weeks.
“They asked (Rio Blanco County) and the Town of Rangely to hold off on pushing for a full court press,” Rangely Town Council member Lisa Hatch said in an email summary Monday night. “It was suggested that the county and the town did not want to get ahead of the industry — the fight needed to be done in unison. All present supported more effort, but with coordinated efforts and done at the right time.”
Hatch and other leaders believe the less immediate but more serious concern is not the power plant’s Title V air quality permit, which will be issued this August by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with or without requirements for more stringent emissions controls.
Deseret Power Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kimball Rasmussen said June 3 that the draft as it stands does not currently include mandates for the plant to upgrade to best available control technology (BACT). The real challenge later on, they said, involves the EPA’s possible revocation of a critical construction permit issued for Bonanza nearly 15 years ago.
“If there is a hint that this may be a problem for Deseret Power, it would be the time to engage a full court press by retaining companies like EIS and the Natural Resource Group,” Hatch’s summary stated.
Following this meeting, the regularly scheduled commissioners’ meeting Monday morning included a wider variety of individuals and agencies interested in possible town, business and county collaborations to hire NRG and EIS.
After Rangely Town Manager Peter Brixius outlined the discussions and activities of coordinated meetings to date, commissioner Jeff Eskelson said the county would hold off on immediate action as the cooperatives wished.
Several individuals expressed their hope for a different decision in response to environmental group WildEarth Guardians’ recent lawsuits and their potential impact on the Deserado Mine and Bonanza Power Plant.
Rector said she believes the issue is critical in light of the potential devastation to Rangely if the Deserado Mine closes, adding that EIS and NRG could look out for the area’s interests in a way that the industries themselves could not.