Regulations on drilling will not slow down oil and gas |

Regulations on drilling will not slow down oil and gas

Aspen, CO Colorado

Colorado is the fifth most attractive location in the world to invest in oil and gas exploration and development. Not just the most attractive in the United States, but in the world, according to the Canada-based Fraser Institute.

A December 2007 report from the independent organization states firmly that Colorado is fifth in the world behind the countries of Malaysia, Romania, Qatar and Thailand.

So don’t believe oil and gas industry advocates who say that regulations under consideration by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) are going to “rule them out” of this state. The doomsayers have been squawking loudly at recent public hearings held by the commission in Denver and Grand Junction.

But oil and gas drilling will be a fact of Western Colorado life for quite a while; the drilling rigs peppering the landscape of western Garfield County testify to the vast resources beneath the surface, and the industry still is waiting to act on thousands of drilling permits that the state already has granted.

The oil and gas industry will not walk away if, for example, Colorado asks drillers to halt activity in certain areas during wildlife mating season. The industry will not walk away if Colorado requires drilling pads to be located more than the current 150 feet from an adjacent landowner’s property. The industry won’t walk away if Colorado encourages drillers to use one pad for multiple wells, to minimize disturbance to the land. Nor will drillers be scared off by stiffer bonding requirements.

Such proposed rules weren’t conjured out of thin air; in fact, stricter regulations already exist in places such as Wyoming and New Mexico, which are seeing drilling booms of their own.

We don’t deny the need for oil and gas exploration; we own gasoline-powered cars, we cook our food and heat our homes with natural gas.

But the rules under discussion are, as far as we can tell, common-sense measures to protect neighboring landowners, wildlife, water and air from damage inflicted by an inherently disruptive industry. “Colorful Colorado” would be foolish not to defend its world-class mountains, trout streams, wildlife and open spaces from unnecessary damage while its reserves of oil and gas are being extracted.

The search for these vital fuels must be balanced with reasonable protections for this state and its residents, who will still live here when the reserves are tapped out and the industry workers have moved on to the next gas patch. Colorado’s mining heyday is long gone, but the tailings piles and gouged-out mountainsides can be seen across the state. We’re still cleaning up many of those messes, and we needn’t make the same mistake twice.

We applaud Gov. Bill Ritter and the COGCC for proposing the new rules, and we hope they’ll keep the state’s long-term interests in mind throughout the rule-making process.