Website Aims to Tackle Wealth and Drilling Argument

Sep 5, 2013

The Thompson Divide Coalition's new website features "The Faces of the Thompson Divide." It's a response, in part, to an argument by the industry that those who don't want drilling in their backyards live in wealthy communities.
Credit Marci Krivonen

The Thompson Divide Coalition launched a new website yesterday, in part, as a response to a common argument made by the energy industry that drilling opponents are wealthy homeowners who paradoxically use a lot of natural gas but don’t want it in their backyards. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

The coalition’s goal is to keep natural gas drilling out of a rural stretch of land south of Carbondale. Three companies have leases in the 180-thousand acre area that covers land in Pitkin, Garfield and Gunnison Counties.

The group’s latest effort is a new website featuring the so-called “Faces of the Thompson Divide.” More than a dozen people give their story on the site, ranging from ranchers and high school students to bike shop owners and yoga instructors. Zane Kessler is the Coalition’s Executive Director.

"They’re the people who have true skin in the game with regards to whether Thompson Divide is protected in the long term or whether it’s developed for short-term benefit," Kessler says.

He says the website is, in part, a way to show that the people behind this movement are average people who don’t live in big homes that use lots of natural gas. David Ludlam with the West Slope Oil and Gas Association says the argument is less about the environment and more about demographics.

"Pitkin County is one of the largest per capita consumers of natural gas and energy in the state, so if you’re going to have that type of consumption on a per capita basis, there has to be a broader discussion about what that community’s role might or might not be in terms of actually participating in energy development," he says.

Already, he says, there’s a natural gas storage facility in the Thompson Divide that supplies energy to local homes. Kessler says the gas developed in the Divide, though, would be shipped elsewhere.

Ludlam says he doubts the area would have garnered as much political attention if it were adjacent to Rifle or Meeker, for example, instead of to one of the most wealthy communities in the nation.