Survey busts “silent majority” myth

November 18, 2020–PAONIA – Today, Citizens for a Healthy Community released the report ENERGY DEVELOPMENT IN THE NORTH FORK VALLEY: Community Perspective that reveals dramatic polarity between constituents and Delta county officials where the extraction industry is concerned, and calls on Delta County Commissioners to develop a Climate Action Plan and to drastically improve representation of the North Fork Valley community in energy development decisions. The report is based on a community survey designed to evaluate the perspectives of area residents on energy development in the North Fork Valley.


This is the first comprehensive survey conducted in the County on the economic, social, and environmental impacts of energy development and statistically shows that most North Fork Valley residents reject the direction that officials are taking the county in regard to the extraction industry. The report was conducted by the independent consulting firm, Weise Consulting, and its findings clearly refute the County’s claims that a “silent majority” is supportive of increased fossil-fuel extraction in the North Fork Valley.


Responding to specific questions including perspectives on the future of energy extraction projects, 93% of participants do not support new oil and gas developments in the North Fork Valley: ninety-five percent of participants do not believe that new developments are necessary for increasing county-wide revenue or creating new jobs; ninety-one percent of respondents want to transition to renewable energy jobs, while only 4% want fossil fuel energy industry jobs.


The survey focused on attitudes towards fossil fuel extraction and renewable energy, climate and action, economic and social outlooks of the North Fork Valley, and the role of the community and elected public officials in decision-making. Responses consistently reflected priority concern for the health of the community, the environment, and expectation of a County responsibility to support a transition to a renewable energy economy and climate-conscious future.


“The county is currently in the process of approving a Land Use Code based on input from less than 1 percent of the County’s residents, and does not take climate and health impacts into consideration in commercial/industrial land uses.  Ninety-two percent of participants support the establishment of a Delta County climate action plan” said Natasha Léger, Executive Director, Citizens for a Healthy Community. “It’s time that this County starts listening to frontline community members on what they want for the future of their community.”


“These results don’t surprise the over 125 Valley Organic Growers Association (VOGA) members who have been working to maintain and expand a sustainable agricultural economy threatened by gas and oil development upstream of us. We encourage the County to support the businesses that are here and thriving, and make land-use decisions that keep our agricultural traditions alive” said Molly Moore, Board President, Valley Organic Growers Association.


The report also recommends that County officials conduct an economic assessment of the impacts of extraction-based versus sustainable, environmentally conscious industries on the region prior to making any future energy-development decisions.


“It is difficult to get good data from sparsely populated rural areas.  Usually assumptions are made based on regional or statewide studies.  We are grateful to CHC for putting in the effort to survey our immediate area.  Defining local communities in terms of our environment, our economy and our social network is important work in these changing times” said Elaine Brett, Founding Member, West Elk Community Fund.


This survey comes at a time when the County, State, and Federal Public Lands management agencies are making decisions that will impact the North Fork Valley for decades to come. “Delta County is a climate hotspot, warming faster than the global average, in severe drought, and the target for increased oil and gas development in the North Fork Valley watershed. We thank those who came before us and enabled our modern economy, but it is time to transition to a clean and renewable energy economy so that we can ensure a resilient and livable future for present and future generations. This survey sought to assess the viewpoints and elevate the voices of community residents, mobilize partnerships, and engage in community-wide conversations with the hope of influencing policy decisions” said Léger.


The Energy Development in the North Fork Valley Survey was made possible in part by a grant from the West Elk Community Fund.