One-sided argument in Thompson debate
August 26, 2012
Regarding the Thompson Divide issue, and in particular Sen. Michael Bennet’s proposed legislation to permanently ban oil and gas development within it, I would like to raise a few points:
First, who are these folks who are opposed to development in the more than 200,000-acre area? Among their ranks are, of course, the usual no-development-anywhere-ever crowd – the radical environmentalists who believe that humans are parasites on the land and who therefore oppose any development regardless of the human benefits. But also included are those who stand to gain from no development – a handful of outfitters, for instance, who see roads as competition, giving hunters other options.
A second point is that it seems highly inappropriate for the government, especially on the demand of a vocal environmental minority, to attempt to stop companies with legally held leases from exercising their lawful rights to develop those leases and thereby returning value to the taxpayers from whom those lands were leased. In essence, Bennet is defrauding the taxpayers of their investment with this legislation.
Third, many of the arguments that are brought up by opponents of drilling in Thompson Divide simply do not hold up under scrutiny. Their concerns about headwaters and sensitive ecological features, for example, are unfounded; most of these areas are too steep and inaccessible, and advances in directional drilling, employed throughout the nation and the state, allow operators to access resources located underneath them from miles away, thereby preventing disturbance. This is only one example of the way modern technology and science permit development and conservation to coexist.
Fourth, there is the issue of just who will be hurt by this strict no-development agenda. It will not be just the oil companies and their shareholders; it will be the local unemployed who will be denied jobs; surviving local businesses who will be denied the opportunity to recover and grow; the elderly, disabled, and others who require roads that will be denied access. And of course local communities in general who will lose out on millions in tax revenue generated by economic activity.
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Finally, it needs to be pointed out that anything that is legislated out, can be legislated back in; at some point, a national emergency, critical gas shortage, or other factor will dictate that these resources be harvested – do we really want to wait until that happens, and risk a haphazard, desperation-driven approach to drilling, or would we prefer that this area start to be developed now, under the safeguards currently in place?
As a rancher, I understand intimately the value of agriculture, and the importance of caring for the land. But I also know that that land can be responsibly shared, and that natural gas is just as important a natural resource as the grass that feeds my cows (and ultimately people). It is irresponsible for a senator to arbitrarily legislate away hundreds of thousands of acres of prospective resources, at the behest of a special interest group.