Luke Schafer: Sorting out the rhetoric

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To the editor:

During the past year or so, I’ve continually heard and read how the new Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules have “driven out industry.” In fact, just last week in response to Gov. Ritter’s decision to not seek re-election, I saw our own county commissioner, Tom Mathers, say “He shut our industry down here. He’s one reason we’re in the shape we’re in, in Moffat Coun­ty.”

Well, I can’t speak to the situation that Moffat County is in, but I can say that all this hyperbole about gas drilling doesn’t match the facts.

The facts are, according to the COGCC, Colorado approved more permits to drill than any other Western state in issuing 5,159 permits last year.

Furthermore, Wyoming was the only other state in the same ballpark, also issuing slightly more than 5,100.

Even more enlightening is a comparison of Rocky Mountain States by Anderson Reports Inc. that shows that Colorado was the overwhelming leader in actual wells drilled with 1,487, with Wyoming next at a distant 896.

Unless Colorado somehow expanded the state line mightily, it speaks to the fact that the new rules have absolutely nothing to do with the downturn in development.

Even here in Moffat County, where a good portion of wells are wildcats and drilled by smaller companies, we are pretty much on par with recent levels of drilling activity. According to the COGCC database, there were 51 wells permitted in Moffat County in the 2009, with four still pending.

That is a fairly unsubstantial drop from the 57 wells permitted in 2008.

The bottom line is that the numbers show that the new COGCC rules have ushered in much-needed protections for our air, water, wildlife and quality of life while not causing the oil and gas industry to flee to other states with less “burdensome” regulations.

The hurt that the oil and gas industry felt this year was felt universally across the Rockies, and its cause was plummeting market prices and historically high levels of gas in storage, not common-sense safeguards being instituted for the citizens of Colorado.

Hopefully, we can now finally put the rhetoric to bed and keep working at finding a balance between the development of today and the preservation of tomorrow.

Luke Schafer

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