Peter Leavitt: Different food for thought


This letter should be considered a rebuttal to David Moss’ op-ed of March 29 (“A fictionalized account as food for thought”). I find it interesting that he can reduce his argument to money. That’s the one point he and I agree on — it’s about the money. But the fact that Moss and others are willing to turn a blind eye to the consequences that reach far beyond the borders of his fictional character's property speaks volumes about their grasp of the larger picture.

Let’s suppose for a minute that Moss’ fictional rancher was being paid to dispose of spent motor oil, diesel and gasoline and more than 500 other known and unknown carcinogens into parts of creeks and the Yampa River that flow through his property. Would that be OK? After all, it’s the rancher’s property where the dumping is taking place, and he needs the money to subsidize his income and keep his family ranch viable. Does it matter what happens to the water downstream? And do we just take the people who are paying him to do the dumping at their word when they tell us we have been misinformed?

The main reason that we don’t have all the facts is because the energy policies written in 2005 exempt industry from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. It effectively allows them to tell the general public — whether they own a ranch or a Chevy Volt — that they not only don’t have to tell us what and how they do things, but they also can place the burden of proof on the landowners when they have problems with their water and their health. If their processes are so blameless, why aren’t they tripping over themselves to do baseline and future water testing on a frequent basis?

I’m not sure if our neighbors here in the valley are generally aware of what really keeps a ranch going these days, so I’ll shed a little light on it. It ain’t cattle. More often than not, ranchers make their daily bread through leases and farm subsidies. Those leases include hunting leases. I have been told by some ranchers in this valley that if it weren’t for the hunting, it would be tough to get by.

I again have been watching the documentary “Gasland.” Although the filmmaker is a self-confessed son of hippies, his film spends most of its time showing people who look, dress, live and sound a lot more like Moss’ fictional rancher and a lot less like Moss’ fictional Volt owner. They are homeowners with families in Pennsylvania and ranchers and landowners here in Colorado and just over the border in Wyoming. What I watched were people frustrated with being lied to and dealing with health issues ranging from migraines to stomach ailments that all materialized shortly after the drilling began — people right here in Colorado whose household water source had become flammable.  

Finally, just because somebody has lived here longer than others doesn’t give them claim to genuine stewardship of the land. I am a direct descendant of John Locke. My family has lived in these United States long before there was a United States. Most of the ranchers and other pioneers here in Colorado came to this country long after the Bill of Rights was drafted.

That being said, neither they nor I have any more right than anyone else to determine whether the air we breathe and the water we drink should be fit for us and our children. Indeed, we all have a say in that, and if we don’t stand up to people willing to sacrifice our prosperity for a few measly dollars in the short-term, then we deserve the miserable fate we would condemn ourselves to. I’m not ready to accept that fate. Here’s another fictional account for readers:

The rancher rode his truck out to check on his herd one morning. To his dismay, 15 more animals had given birth to dead calves, and 20 more were displaying the same symptoms as his cattle that died the previous fall. Their hair was falling out, and they were having trouble digesting the feed hay he had brought to the field the previous week. It also occurred to him that he hadn’t seen as many of his barn cats that morning, and he wondered what was up. He stood there shaking his head. taking in the view of the oil well on the ridge above and wondering where he and his family would be without the lease money.


mark hartless 4 years, 6 months ago

It is obvious that society has decided that the individual will have less control over "private" property and its uses going forward.

Will property taxes be commensurately reduced as the individuals rights to their land are diminished? I doubt it. Will anyone want to own land over which they have little or no control? I doubt it.

At this point we seem to be well on our way to serfdom, but as it was in the middle ages, there are those who are sure it's for the best...

Even a dog understands the concept of "private" property. Don't think so? Try to take his bone.


kathy foos 4 years, 6 months ago

Good one Peter!Marc ,a lot of us own property and pay taxes and don't want gas fracking. It's only natural we would all like to have a say about air and water cleanliness.Just bring back the Clean Air and Water Act,enforce it .


mark hartless 4 years, 6 months ago

I remember visiting with a neighbor lady years ago who was on the verge of losing her farm. Her huaband was gone, she had three kids to feed, and the bank was looking for 3 or 4 back payments. The only thing she owned outright worth anything was a half dozen horses.

As I stood there trying to get her to consider selling the horses and squaring with the bank she said something I now hear every day, but not in so many words. She said "I can't sell the horses, it would be too traumatic for the kids to lose them." Right then and there I knew I couldn't help her. I left the wad of cash in my pocket, pulled out my empty hand and shook her's, offering her only my best wishes. Why didn't I help her financially? Because she refused to help herself. Even worse, she did not even have the intelligence to know that losing the farm was going to be a heck of a lot more traumatic on the kids than losing some stupid horses.

America wants all it's eyes see but it refuses to pay for any of it.

It wants manufacturing but refuses to build power generation. It wants good paying jobs but refuses to educate it's work force. It wants wealth but refuses to extract it from the earth, the source of all lasting wealth. It wants to have a say over what happens on the ranch but refuses to buy one of its own.


mark hartless 4 years, 6 months ago

BTW, She did lose the farm... and then the horses.


Steve Lewis 4 years, 6 months ago

Peter Leavitt remembered the neighbors in his version. There are impacts to the neighbors that David Moss willfully ignored.

Unfortunately, the State of Colorado is weighing in on the side of the industry and against the neighbors who are being impacted. The State told Routt County to take a hike with Routt's preferred increases in regulatory protections. As the above letter noted, Oil and Gas holds harmful exemptions from the Clean Air and Water Acts. Colorado is wrong to put the interests of such a powerful and exempted industry before the local county jurisdictions who also have valuable resources worthy of extra protections.

Local control is the right way to deal with this.


Fred Duckels 4 years, 5 months ago

Steve, Actually I have decided that some pollution might not be all that bad if it caused some of our enviro micromanagers to consider relocating.


Fred Duckels 4 years, 5 months ago

When folks on the left come to an awkward point in a conversation they invariably start dragging out the sob stories. Trump card anecdotes abound ranging from starving children, killing grandma, ruining the earth, soaking the rich, all designed to address the choir and the gullible.

In this article those residents who lived here long before it was fashionable or profitable seem to be under attack for their views. If luck were to shine on them it would'nt be right. How dare they try to make ends meet, they should share with me as I waited a long time for the necessary amenities to be in place to make my move.

In the distant past residents of Routt County were thought to be of inferior stock or seriously lacking to put up with the cold and snow. Now that the temperatures have moderated and the snow proven profitable we have a flood of latter day gurus to straighten us out, just in the nick of time.


Steve Lewis 4 years, 5 months ago

Fred, Imagine how rancher Bill feels when the oil company "force pools" his mineral rights against his will. (Similarly for the impacted property values of many others beside the pollution you endorse.)

Giving a private industry such eminent domain? Just a clue to the power of this industry.


Fred Duckels 4 years, 5 months ago

Steve, I would rather take my chances with an oil company than the EPA and other heavy handed bureaucrats. In my experience they are usually reasonable people but it is a differant story where radicals are concerned.


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