January 1, 2010

High Country News, the award-winning news magazine of the American West, is bringing together a distinguished panel of experts to discuss the wide-ranging effects of the energy boom on Western communities and the environment. High Country News Editor Jonathan Thompson will moderate the panel discussion Thursday evening, May 15, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colo.  The event is free and open to the public.

“We’re in the middle of an extractive boom of unprecedented proportions, with both positive and negative effects.” Thompson said. “Already the impacts are being felt in a big way.”  He noted the resulting economic surge as high-wage workers flock in to man the rigs and unemployment drops to near zero. However, teachers, cops and others who don’t make the big salaries are having trouble affording to live in some booming communities. The retail, service, food and construction industries can’t find employees. Meanwhile, roads are deteriorating and tourists scramble for a hotel room.

Thompson said, “It begs the question: under the pressure of such an unprecedented boom, can these communities hold on to their identities?  Can a gasfield town also be a quality-of-life town, and how?”

The roster of panelists includes Gabe Preston, long-term community planner and owner of RPI Consulting in Durango; Josh Penry, Colorado State Senator, District 7; John Williams, president of Gateway Canyons Resort; Troy Rarick, owner of Over the Edge Sports in Fruita; Tresi Blair Houpt, Garfield County Commissioner; George Orbanek, former editor and publisher of The [Grand Junction] Daily Sentinel; and Melissa Norcross, public relations director, Halliburton.

With such a range of viewpoints represented in the panel discussion, Paul Larmer, executive director of High Country News, expects the event to reinforce High Country News’ reputation for independently covering all aspects of issues affecting the American West.  “These panelists will do what any well-reported story does:  give citizens an opportunity to hear all sides of an important issue and hopefully inspire them to engage.”

No reservation is required for the free, public event. The discussion will be held in Moss Performing Arts Center Recital Hall, Mesa State College, Corner of 12th Street and Bunting Avenue, Grand Junction, Colo, from 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 15. Details are available at

High Country News ( is an award-winning non-profit media organization dedicated to independently covering the important issues and stories of the American West – in depth.  We encourage links from your website to ours.

High Country News Editor Jonathan Thompson and HCN publisher Paul Larmer are available for interviews.

General Contact:               
Lisa Wolf Johnson               
High Country News               

You may contact Thompson or Larmer directly at 970-527-4898.