July 18, 2008

Schaffer Visits San Luis Valley

By Matt Hildner, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

Jul. 18--ALAMOSA -- Bob Schaffer, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, swung through the San Luis Valley Thursday, stopping in at an Alamosa senior center along the way.

Energy concerns topped the list of those who turned from their bowls of lunchtime chile to chew on the candidate's ear.

Schaffer, who's taking on U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., for outgoing Republican Sen. Wayne Allard's seat, asked people at one table if they would be for off-shore drilling along the U.S. coast and the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil production.

Dorothy Thompson, 81, of Alamosa, who came to the senior center looking for a game of dominos, said she did not oppose either move. After her discussion with Schaffer, she said that, along with the economy, energy was her biggest concern.

While President Bush has signed an executive order to open coastal areas to drilling, a congressional moratorium has prevented drilling. Guy Caruso, head of the federal Energy Information Administration, said the offshore reserves would account for about 200,000 barrels of oil a day, but would take five to 10 years to get to market, according to a June 25 account from the Reuters Press Agency.

Schaffer, who did not make any general remarks but jumped from table to table, told one group that the message he's heard on the trail has emphasized the need to produce more energy domestically, including the expansion of alternative sources and nuclear power.

The natural gas boom that's hit much of the state has yet to reach the San Luis Valley, although the industry has recommended up to 144,000 acres on the Rio Grande National Forest for development.

Schaffer said he would oppose leasing in an area "where it's environmentally harmful and makes no economic sense."

He said the standards he would use to make that determination would be the same ones evaluated by federal agencies when they conduct an environmental impact statement on whether leasing should occur.

Schaffer's campaign, which was scheduled to come through seven towns in the valley, missed a scheduled stop at a La Jara gas station.

Schaffer supporters Paul and Mary Robbins, who live near Waverly in southwestern Alamosa County, were among those waiting in La Jara.

The Robbins, who lived in Fort Lupton when Schaffer served as a congressman for the 4th Congressional District from 1996 to 2003, said politicians should tell environmentalists to get out of the way so drilling could commence offshore.


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