Industry: Support growing for domestic oil, gas
September 5, 2008
DENVER ” Energy industry officials say public support is growing for stepped-up oil and gas production in the U.S., but so is concern about the impacts of drilling.
Speakers at an oil and gas technology conference Thursday said that’s why the industry needs to use the best technology to minimize the effects of drilling.
The two-day conference by the Denver-based Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States is highlighting some of the latest development methods in the Rockies, site of a natural gas boom.
Marc Smith, the association’s executive director, noted that recent polls show a majority of respondents support more domestic energy production, including easing restrictions on offshore drilling, as fuel prices have risen. He said it’s a good time for the oil and gas industry to make its case, including boosting drilling for natural gas, the cleanest-burning fossil fuel.
Ken Wonstolen, an attorney who represents the trade group Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said companies need to respond to concerns about the chemicals used by using alternative substances. He said drilling more wells from fewer pads by drilling at angles rather than just vertically will minimize effects on wildlife habitat by disturbing less land.
“We’re not the most popular industry in the world, or the country,” Wonstolen said. “But when you talk about oil and gas in the arena of high tech offshore drilling and directional drilling, you see public support going up.”
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Wonstolen said regulations proposed by states in the region, including the overhaul of oil and gas rules under way in Colorado, coupled with the possibility of both a Democratic Congress and federal administration underscore the need to heed the public’s concerns.
“We’re only going to be allowed to operate to the extent that we have the citizens and the politicians comfortable with our operations,” Wonstolen said.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Colorado Petroleum Association have vigorously opposed the proposed changes in Colorado’s regulations. The rules would give more weight to environmental, public health and safety and wildlife issues.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the main regulatory agency, is set to make a final decision on the rules in a three-day session next week.
During a break, Wonstolen said he prefers voluntary efforts by the industry to adopt advanced, environmentally friendly methods and equipment.
Linda Baker of the Upper Green River Valley Coalition in Pinedale, Wyo., said some companies have made noticeable improvements to their operations in western Wyoming, but others haven’t. She said she doesn’t understand why companies already using the best technology and methods would object to mandatory standards.
Western Wyoming’s intense natural gas development is blamed for the area’s exceeding federal ozone limits in the winter. Ground-level ozone pollution usually occurs in summer when the sun bakes pollutants such as vehicle exhaust and vapors from oil and gas wells.
The number of mule deer in the area has dropped by 46 percent according to a five-year study partially funded by the industry.
“Ultimately, technology seems to have great promise,” Baker said.
But the solution might be slowing the pace of development, she added.