Drilling will stimulate the local economy | AspenTimes.com

Drilling will stimulate the local economy

Dear Editor:

The story from the July 19 Aspen Times about SG Interests’ and Encana’s preparatory work toward drilling in the Thompson Divide area could be good economic news for Glenwood Springs and other communities in this area.

It is no secret that Garfield County’s economy has been struggling since the exodus of drilling a few years back. Our unemployment level is critically high, businesses have closed or relocated, and many young families have followed those jobs and businesses to other states with higher drilling activity, such as North Dakota.

Increased production of hydrocarbons also is an important national priority. The United States technically is more than three years from the end of the last recession, and yet puny economic growth is lagging far behind population growth. If we remain on this course, it will be only a few years before we no longer will be able to afford Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare and other entitlement programs. Any kind of economic recovery, let alone the robust growth demanded by entitlements, depends on large quantities of affordable energy. It will not come from renewables – not for decades at least.

The Obama administration has been unfriendly to hydro-carbon projects such as the Keystone pipeline and expanded production on federal lands. Meanwhile, the Chinese are buying huge hydrocarbon resources in Canada, depriving us of access to those resources if we need them in the future. Either we expand domestic production dramatically or we cut back entitlements; the connection is unavoidable.

People concerned about the environmental impact of drilling in Thompson Divide have legitimate concerns. As I understand it from the news reports, SG Interests and Encana have legal rights to hydro-carbon exploration and production leases on federal land. Presumably, SG Interests and Encana have rights and obligations under those leases that were agreed to by the federal government, which granted the leases. We all hope that the leases require operating practices that minimize environmental impacts, or that the operators would take measures they are not legally required to take to minimize such impacts if the leases are weak on environmental matters.

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But the fact is that the federal government owns the land, it has granted the leases, and SG Interests and Encana seem to be entitled to exploit the leases. If environmentalists are that concerned, perhaps they should raise funds and buy the leases back from SG Interests and Encana.

If anyone believes it was imprudent to grant a lease in the Thompson Divide area, he should inform the Bureau of Land Management or other appropriate agencies so that closer scrutiny is made of future applications. The cat seems to be out of the bag on this one, however. Who knows? Maybe the operators will surprise the environmentalists and operate in an environmentally friendly way. Meanwhile, more jobs will be created in our communities, which will benefit all.

Maurice Emmer

Aspen