I am opposed to Grand County joining the Six County Infrastructure Coalition for the following two reasons:
Firstly, it goes against the purpose of the permanent Community Impact Board (CIB):
The legal charter of the CIB is to use mineral lease royalties to offset impacts of the oil and gas development in the counties where it occurs. From state code:
The Permanent Community Impact Fund Board (the Board) provides loans and/or grants to State agencies and subdivisions of the State which are or may be socially or economically impacted, directly or indirectly, by mineral resource development. Authorization for the Board is contained in Section 35A-8-301 et seq.
The plans currently being pursued by the Six County Infrastructure Coalition (6CIC) will divert those funds away from the communities they were intended for and where they’ve been going for decades. Instead, that money will now be used to build railroads, highways and pipelines to increase the very thing it was meant to offset – mineral resource development. Building a project such as the Indian Canyon railroad, or the Book Cliffs Highway, does not offset the impacts of oil and gas development. It enables further oil and gas development. And any benefits derived by the counties from the 6CIC projects will only be secondary, if they ever come at all. The primary benefits will go to the oil and gas companies.
The diversion of those impact funds will be a very tangible harm done to the citizens of Grand County. I believe this harm will provide grounds for lengthy legal battles. For decades now, we have received grants or loans from CIB for things that directly benefit our community, such as our new county ball fields, the city aquatic center, and our new Hospital (to name only a few.) Now — as we have already seen at the most recent CIB meeting — the majority of CIB funds will be unavailable because they’re being diverted toward railroads, highways or pipelines that only facilitate more of the very thing they are meant to offset. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we could also stand to lose a lot of money in legal battles.
Secondly, the Coalition was conceived in secret and its origins are still being disguised and shielded from public investigation.
The recent public forum was a botched attempt to create community buy-in here in Grand County. It did not achieve that goal. Instead, it made it even more plain to the public that this entity is being driven by outside interests. Grand County gains nothing by giving its support and legitimacy to these outside interests, and instead, potentially could find itself married to massively expensive and highly speculative projects whose primary beneficiaries are counties and private companies with little or no legitimate ties to this community.