Silt residents urge town boycott to protest Antero gas drilling plan

Residents of a Western Slope neighborhood called Silt Mesa — targeted for stepped-up natural gas drilling by Denver-based Antero Resources — are reportedly angered by a perceived lack of support from the Silt Town Council. Citing public health and environmental concerns, they’re calling for a boycott of stores in the town of Silt.

“I was sickened by Silt Mayor Dave Moore’s sycophantic ‘We love Antero. They are such wonderful neighbors’ speech,” Silt Mesa resident Dave Pegg wrote to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, referring to comments made by the mayor at a special Garfield County commissioner’s meeting Tuesday. Moore at that meeting lauded Antero money coming into the town for “social and civic activities.”

At that county meeting Tuesday, according to the Post Independent, two of the three commissioners voted to formally intervene on behalf of Silt Mesa and Peach Valley residents who object to an Antero request to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner (COGCC) to dramatically increasing drilling density in the two neighborhoods.

Antero, which also has been embroiled in controversy over its plans to drill up to 200 new wells in the Battlement Mesa community, wants to increase well density in a 640-acre area near Silt from one well per 160 acres to one well per 10 acres, according to the paper. Silt is about 15 miles west of Glenwood Springs on Interstate 70.

Republican county commissioner John Martin, an ardent backer of the oil and gas industry, was the lone dissenting vote on the three-member board of commissioners, which will ask the state regulatory COGCC to consider citizen concerns about air and water quality and increased truck traffic before granting Antero’s request.

Commissioner Mike Samson, a Republican and former educator in Rifle, joined Democrat Trési Houpt in voting to officially intervene with the state on behalf of Garfield County citizens. “I have a lot of concerns about the health, safety and welfare of the people,” Samson said, adding COGCC rules are flawed because they don’t allow “ordinary citizens” to have formal standing, leaving it up to county government.

Houpt, who was decisively voted out of office last week in favor of Republican Tom Jankovsky (also a big backer of the gas industry), serves as a local community representative on the COGCC board. That’s a state position she’ll now have to give up after leaving local office.

Admitting there are “shortfalls” in the state rules regulating natural gas drilling, she has said local residents will have to be even more vigilant in monitoring the industry with the changes to the makeup of the county board. She also previously has said she developed a good working relationship with Samson, who seems more willing to take local public health concerns about drilling into consideration than his GOP counterpart Martin.

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