‘We cough up mud,’ Rifle resident says | VailDaily.com

‘We cough up mud,’ Rifle resident says

Dennis Webb
Rifle Correspondent
Vail CO, Colorado

RIFLE ” Thomas Thompson doesn’t buy the talk that things have improved locally for residents living in areas of natural gas development.

They haven’t for him.

Thompson and his wife built a home on Porcupine Creek Road southwest of Rifle about six-and-a-half years ago, and have dealt with drilling impacts much of the time since then.

“Our lives have been turned upside down. Our quality of living is miserable,” he told Garfield County’s Energy Advisory Board in Rifle.

The Thompsons suffer from lightheadedness and nosebleeds from breathing dust and fumes.

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“We cough up mud, we cough up blood,” Thompson said.

Worst of all, nobody seems to be doing anything about problems such as his, he said. He said if few people are complaining about drilling these days, it’s because they’ve given up after being ignored for so long.

But Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt says there’s reason for them to have hope.

Houpt is a newly appointed member of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry. Her appointment follows passage of legislation that increased the commission’s membership from seven to nine, and reduced representation on the comission by industry-oriented members.

The law also has revised the commission’s mission to require that energy development be balanced against protection of public health, the environment and wildlife.

Houpt told the Energy Advisory Board Thursday that she thinks the legislation was passed because of situations such as Thompson’s, and acknowledgment of impacts on quality of life and wildlife.

Houpt’s assurances came as good news to Thompson and to Scott Brynildson, a citizen representative on the Energy Advisory Board who also owns a home up Porcupine Creek and agrees that the odors up there can be bad.

Brynildson was glad to hear from Houpt about the commission changes. He tried talking to the group about his concerns four years ago.

“That’s great news because I spoke to them and it was like talking to a brick wall,” he said.

“Well, you will find that our meetings are probably longer,” Houpt said to some laughter Thursday. “We have a lot to talk about, we have a lot of questions for people.”

“I’m glad to have you on there,” Brynildson told Houpt.

“We worked hard to get you there,” added Sam Robinson, an advisory board member representing the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, which promoted passage of the legislation making changes to the oil and gas commission and its goals.

At issue for Houpt is how to proceed with natural gas development in pristine mountain areas that people moved to so they could live a peaceful life.

“I think the focus is to see that balance, so that people can have a life while this is happening,” she said.

In an interview Friday, Thompson said he’s had experiences similar to Brynildson’s when he has talked to the commission in the past.

“Those people were just completely unresponsive to any issue that we had. They weren’t interested in hearing it,” he said.

“The only things that changed at any of those meetings were the names of the victims,” he added.

Thompson said Houpt agreed to visit his home next week.

Energy companies are very accommodating when it comes to offering tours of their facilities to public officials, Thompson said.

“Of course, they take them to the sites they want them to see. I’ll show her the ones she needs to see. It’s a very different thing,” he said.

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