Sunlight GM defends drilling in bid for commissioner seat

By David O. Williams
Real AspenAugust 30, 2010
A Republican ski area general manager challenging an incumbent Democratic county commissioner in gas-rich Garfield County says winter sports, outdoor recreation and tourism there are no more threatened by drilling than other parts of the state are impacted by alternative energy.

Tom Jankovsky

Originally from Sterling on the state’s wind-rich eastern plains, Tom Jankovsky, the GM of Sunlight Mountain Resort near Glenwood Springs, is challenging Trési Houpt in November’s general election. Houpt has pushed for more environmental safeguards in the most drilled county in the state, and Jankovsky is running on a more pro-drilling plank.

“You drive up out of the valley in Sterling and there’s a thousand windmills up in the high plains, and you don’t think those have an impact on wildlife and a visual impact?” Jankovsky said in an interview earlier this summer. “Those windmills are there for a hundred years, while a gas rig may be here for a year, then they pull out and it’s relatively unobtrusive.”

Jankovsky says he isn’t speaking for Sunlight ski area in his bid to land on the board of commissioners, but he does feel the oil and gas workers – especially middle managers — who ski at his small family resort northwest of Aspen are concerned about the environmental impacts of natural gas drilling and trying harder to mitigate those impacts than they were even 10 years ago.

“As far as our guests, those oil and gas jobs are good-paying positions,” Jankovsky said. “That’s why they’re important for Garfield County as well, and that’s why we have those guests at our resort.”

Houpt says she’s keenly aware of the jobs the industry brings to the county and does her best to balance those economic considerations with the rising chorus of residents upset by the environmental and public health impacts of drilling ranging from noise and air pollution to diminished water quality to stressed wildlife.

And she’s also aware she wears a double target on her back as the lone Democrat on the three-member board of commissioners and an appointee by Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter to the state agency – the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) – that oversees natural gas drilling in the state.

Houpt fully expects oil and gas money to play in the race in favor of Jankovsky and to her detriment. Jankovsky says he hopes outside influences stay out of what’s basically a local election, but adds he wouldn’t be surprised to see environmental groups back Houpt. He says Houpt has a conflict when it comes to also serving on the COGCC.

“Because of Tresi’s position on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission she recuses herself we counted 25 percent of the time,” Jankovsky said. “Although you may think she’s there supporting you on a local level on oil and gas issues, she can’t because she has to recuse herself.”

Houpt scoffs at that notion.

“There’s been a great benefit to having a local government official serve on the oil and gas commission, because so much of what is determined at the state level impacts land use, and they’ve never had that discussion from the perspective of what the local impacts are,” Houpt said. “I’m able to not only serve Garfield County in a more comprehensive manner, but I can better educate the state on how best to work with counties.”

Tresi Houpt

Houpt says she’s able to determine where her vote will have the most impact and vote that position. For example, she’s decided to take the county position in reviewing all applications related to Antero Resources’ drilling plan in the Battlement Mesa community, where she voted as a county commissioner to at least explore using county 1041 powers to perhaps give the county more regulatory authority.

Jankovsky flatly opposes even considering using 1041 powers – a position in line with the current Republican county commissioners.

Houpt says the COGCC’s amended oil and gas drilling regulations that went into effect in the spring of 2009 have provided better protections for public health and the environment without unduly restricting the ability of the industry to do business in the state. She says her presence on the state board brought a stronger local government voice to that process.

“There is always room for growth in communication, but we’ve made great progress with the new rules and new systems that are in place, and I honestly believe there’s a greater understanding from the state level on what needs to be contemplated when you’re looking at energy development and what the challenges at the local levels are and why it’s important to be partners with counties,” Houpt said.


comments: 3 Comments on "Sunlight GM defends drilling in bid for commissioner seat"

glenwoodsprings22 – Sept. 18, 2010, at 6:54 a.m.

Here's the reason, this used to card carrying Republican/now unaffiliated conservative, is not voting Jankovsky and instead has thrown his support behind Ms. Houpt.

Tom Jankovsky would have made a great county commissioner. Had high hopes for him. Waited to make my choice until I could see how he handled his now very public and very obvious ball dropping of lack of oversight of the accommodations tax revenues in Glenwood.

He still, even after the forced disbanding of his creation old tourism board, which the City of Glenwood just replaced with Ordinance #12, Series of 2010; passed the buck and weight load off onto others and did not step up for transparency and accountability to the folks.

That threw me, over to support Tresi Houpt.

Here's the reason Jankovsky's hyperbole to big oil and gas doesn't fly for me in this article.

Tom Jankovsky sways whichever way the wind blows. I want backbone as my Garco County Commissioner.

Ms. Houpt does not sway.

gws44 – Sept. 18, 2010, at 8:43 a.m.

No, she does not.

Watching the Issues and Answers Forum recently held in Glenwood Springs was a very clear eye opener on why Tresi should be retained.

Stark differences in these two candidates.

inkwars – Sept. 18, 2010, at 3:18 p.m.

This will still be a close race. Jankovsky is under a lot of heat right now. The next month will be very telling as he is watched on his relationship to big oil and gas down in our neck of the corridor.

It would be very beneficial to him to explain some of the past business controversies and decisions he's made at Sunlight. It's in times of crisis that we see the staying power of decisions made.

I am not convinced yet, but am still leaning his way.

Tresi needs to come up with a plan for future instead of just clinging to her record. Tom is hitting on all cylinders with fresh ideas.

So. Vote for solid backbone and reliability in Houpt? Or for sharp ideas with little inner substance showing out of Jankovsky?

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