Submission Number: UBR-DEIS-00288 -- Oral Comment at Public Meeting
Received: 11/16/2020 12:00:00 PM
Commenter: Darrell Fordham
Organization: Argyle Wilderness Preservation Alliance
Initiative: Uinta Basin Railway EIS
Attachments: No Attachments
Okay. Can you hear me?
My name is Darrell Fordham, F-O-R-D-H-A-M.· I represent the Argyle Wilderness Preservation Alliance.· We are made up of a group of landowners in Argyle Canyon area. · · · · · · I had actually just planned on listening to this meeting and was going to suspend my comments for a future meeting, but honestly, after listening to Mr. Hyde's comments, I can't sit here and not say anything. · · · · · · You know, for the past 18 or 19 months, we landowners in the area have -- we have been harassed and intimidated by the Coalition, by Duchesne County officials, and most recently, by the State Institutional Trust Land Administration, through a special agent from the Utah Attorney General's Office. · · · · · · I don't feel like that we, as private landowners, or we, as the public that are concerned about this project, have been afforded the respect and the opportunity to fully learn about this project in the way that it -- that it should be done. · · · · · · As Ms. Cordray mentions, the Coalition doesn't allow public comments in their electronic meetings anymore.· They require those comments to be submitted in writing.· And they do not even include the copies as part of their meeting minutes.· They summarize the comments, and then anyone that wants to actually read those comments has to request a copy from them. · · · · · · This is just one example of how the Coalition has intentionally withheld information from the public regarding this project, and it has fed into the opposition and the skepticism that surrounds this project.· · · · · · You know, I have spent countless hours in the last 18 months researching this project and the impacts that would be associated with it.· Nearly all the information that I've tried to obtain, I've had to fill out GRAMA requests in order to get that information from the Coalition.· They don't freely allow the public to view this information. · · · · · · And most of the information that we have received in these GRAMA requests have been redacted, such that it is totally ineffective in allowing the public to truly understand what the impacts are.· And if there aren't any negative impacts that can't be overcome, then why all the secrecy?· Why are we hiding everything from the public and from landowners that will be directly affected by this project?
You know, we've tried to challenge this legally, and the Coalition has an unlimited legal budget, funded by our public moneys, that they use to fight us.· It is just a no-win situation for us. · · · · · · And, you know, the Coalition doesn't discuss any of the particulars of the projects in their monthly Board meetings.· You know, they intentionally meet in subcommittees, where a quorum --
Thank you.· I'd like to make additional comments if there's time, and there's no one else who wants to.
Thank you, I appreciate that. · · · · · · So as I was saying, virtually all the planning and discussions and everything surrounding this project has been done in secret and outside of the public eye.· The Coalition meets in subcommittees where a quorum isn't present, so they don't have to make those discussions available to the public.· I feel like that's deceitful, and that's just not the way that a public body that is supposed to represent us as the public should conduct their actions.· · · · · · You know, we are not against economic prosperity in the Uinta Basin.· You know, all of us landowners that are up in that area, in the Argyle Canyon area, you know, the vast majority of us are not full-time residents, but we still pay significant property taxes to Duchesne County every single year. · · · · · · We get no exemption from being a permanent resident.· We get hammered on our taxes, and we get virtually no services from the county up there whatsoever.· And then the county comes in and is going to run this project over the top of us, and yeah, we are angry, and we are upset about it and we don't feel like it is appropriate. · · · · · · And while they are doing that, they continue to raise our property taxes in the area, when, clearly, this project, and even the possibility of this project, significantly decreases the value of our properties in that area. · · · · · · You know, nobody knows and understands the environmental impacts that this is going to have in this area, specifically in Argyle Canyon, better than us who are residents and landowners in that area.· I don't know where the OEA gets their standards that they feel like are permissible and acceptable, but, you know, the impacts that are going to come from this project are far reaching and will -- many of them will be irreparable. · · · · · · In addition, there's still no private financing in place for this project.· So the Coalition is spending all this public money to plan this project, and they don't even know whether it will ever be built, because Drexel Hamilton, the private investment company, still doesn't have any investment in place and funding in place to fund this project.
You know, I feel like that speaks volumes to just how -- just how questionable this project is.· You know, if there is not financing already in place for it, why not?· If this project is so vital and so viable, why isn't the financing already in place for it?· Why aren't the investors and the oil companies that are going to benefit from this project putting up the funds to plan it, rather than relying on the Coalition, a government entity, gambling with our public moneys to plan this project that may never happen? · · · · · · It's just flat-out wrong, and I totally disagree with it.· Thank you.
Thank you.· Darrell Fordham again, just two quick comments. · · · · · · First, to echo what Ms. Cordray said in her comments for these meetings, I would strongly encourage that ICF and STB come up with some sort of mechanism or platform for the balance of these public comment meetings so that all participants can view and see, you know, who is participating, either on the computer or via phone. · · · · · · You know, these -- these online meetings need to mirror, you know, what a public in-person meeting
would be as closely as possible.· So I don't know how you accomplish that, but I feel like it is pretty important and pretty vital for all participants to see who is in attendance. · · · · · · And then my second comment, just in regard to Mr. Todd's comment, you know, if oil and gas production is going to begin declining in 2030, this railroad will be far from paid for.· And that is one of our big concerns also is the financial viability of this rail. · · · · · · Again, it goes back to all the information that we've requested from the Coalition that they sent to us redacted because they don't want to share what the true economic viability of the railway is.· But I can tell you that it is going to take more than seven or eight years to pay for this railway.· And so if oil production begins to decline or there is another, you know, economic impact such as this pandemic, what then? You know, what happens then? · · · · · · I feel like there's far too much uncertainty surrounding this project, and it has the potential to, sure, improve the booms and make them exponentially larger, but at the same time, it also has the ability to exponentially increase the negative impacts of the bust cycles that are inherent --
-- that are -- those are inherent in the petroleum industry.· I feel like that public moneys are better spent investigating and planning and pushing alternatives to fossil fuel production to create a stable economy for the Uinta Basin.· Thank you.