Broker: imports could further lower gas prices |

Broker: imports could further lower gas prices

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” An increase in liquefied natural gas imports is one more challenge facing Colorado gas producers.

Gas broker John Harpole, president of Mercator Energy in Littleton, said imports of liquefied natural gas are expected to rise 30 percent. He said that could cut the price of gas to a fourth of what it was a year ago.

Natural gas that has been liquefied can be transported by ship rather than pipeline.

Harpole spoke Saturday in Grand Junction at the spring meeting of Club 20, a lobbying group for western Colorado counties and organizations.

Western Colorado has been a hot spot in the state’s natural gas boom and has felt the effects of cutbacks in drilling as the recession has worsened.

Energy companies have reduced drilling in Colorado as prices have plunged and credit has tightened. There is a shortage of pipeline capacity to get the gas to markets.

Industry representatives also blame new state oil and gas regulations for the slowdown. They contend the rules, which took effect last week, will make getting permits more expensive and time-consuming.

Problems such as pipeline capacity eventually will go away, Harpole said, but the new regulations will be permanent. He said questioned what the state is doing to encourage natural gas producers to stay.

“That’s why I drove over here at 4 o’clock in the morning, because I wanted to ask a man who isn’t here right now that very question,” Harpole said.

Harpole was the substitute luncheon speaker after aircraft and weather problems forced Gov. Bill Ritter to cancel plans to go to Grand Junction. The governor’s absence didn’t deter protesters, who carried signs that read “I’m bitter about Ritter” and “Ritter Ruled Us Out.”

Ritter supported updating Colorado’s oil and gas rules and expanding the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the main regulatory body, to include more members from outside the industry. Several hunting and angling groups, environmentalists and community groups lobbied for the changes.

Lawmakers approved revising the rules in 2007, when Colorado was in the middle of an energy boom. The oil and gas industry has argued that even before taking effect, the rules dampened companies’ interest in Colorado.

Ritter’s office released the speech he had planned to give to Club 20. In it, he said his administration is working on helping develop uses for Colorado’s natural gas, including seeking speedy federal regulatory approval of an interstate pipeline project and pursuing legislation to extend a hybrid-vehicle tax credit to compressed natural gas cars and trucks.

Ritter defended the new regulations as “a balance that recognizes the importance of a healthy industry and the importance of healthy communities, water supplies and wildlife.”

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