Mining means money for Moffat County

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Where drills pump for oil and tanker trucks dot the landscape and .... the deer and the antelope play.

Moffat County is in store for big things if companies such as Phillips Petroleum Company (commonly known as Phillips 66) strike gas in local coalbeds.

The benefits of utilizing local resources for mineral mining efforts has sparked controversy between environmentalists and drilling companies in the area for years. At Tuesday night's land use meeting, representatives from the minerals division of the Moffat County Land Use Board argued in favor of the many benefits to be reaped by Moffat County if mineral mining efforts are successful.

Phillips is drilling three new holes in northwest Moffat County in hopes of striking it rich. Methane gas, the most common form of natural gas can be mined from the coal seams associated with un-mined coal beds.

Moffat County is no stranger to the gas mining endeavor. In recent years, Cockerell Oil Corporation out of Houston, Texas began drilling more than seven holes for the purpose of natural gas mining, but moved their operation to southern Carbon County in Wyoming where gas could be mined faster and in larger quantity.

Holmes Shefstead, the minerals representative from the Moffat County Land Use Board, is eager to remind locals that the benefits of natural gas drilling in the county are far greater than surface aesthetics. According to the 1999 Mill Levy information provided by the Moffat County Treasurer's Office, more than 70 percent of the tax dollars collected by the county came from mineral-based businesses.

"The idea is to develop our own resources so that Moffat County can reap all of the benefits," Shefstead said.

Shefstead added that the economic stability of the county is dependent upon the mining industries, whether it be coal, natural gas or oil.

"The businesses we have will disappear if we ignore our natural resources," he said.

The mining industry not only contributes largely to the county through taxes, but is responsible for creating hundreds of long-term jobs for locals and providing affordable gas costs by alleviating the purchases of gas from foreign pipelines.

"We need to responsibly protect our culture. Whenever we can practically develop our natural resources, then that's what we should do," Shefstead said.

In spite of stark hillsides and barren fields, mining operations are required to complete strictly-enforced reclamation projects according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations pertaining to drilling regulations. Phillips is required to complete investigatory work in order to adequately protect the environment wherever they have a presence.

For more information about coalbed methane mining or minerals in Moffat County, contact Holmes Shefstead at 824-6835.

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