Craig Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe testified at a small business hearing in Washington, D.C. Thursday, highlighting how expanding oil and gas business could benefit Northwest Colorado.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton invited Grobe to testify on behalf of Moffat County at the Subcommittee on Agriculture Energy and Trade. Tipton is the chair of the subcommittee.
“Scott Tipton was really happy with the testimony,” Grobe said. “There were some good questions along the line of what my testimony was about, and they really appreciated my angle on it.”
Grobe’s testimony focused on job creation in rural western Colorado.
“Regulatory uncertainty, unnecessary federal regulation, frivolous lawsuits and the lack of political courage by the current administration to allow development of these new oil and gas sources, puts our jobs potential in jeopardy,” Grobe said to the subcommittee.
The basic theme of the hearing was for lawmakers to discuss how energy exploration will help fuel rural economies and small business growth, including restaurants, hotels, retail and housing,.
Grobe highlighted that Moffat County is potentially losing $700 million in natural gas drilling — roughly $25 million of which would benefit the county — due to not tapping into the natural gas resource at the Vermillion Basin, he said.
The Vermillion Basin is a 77,000-acre desert land that has 200 billion cubic feet of natural gas, Grobe outlined in his written testimony.
“I don’t think things could’ve gone better as far as getting our point across,” Grobe said. “Regulation is killing small business. Every election can change the dynamic 180 degrees.”
Yet not everyone agrees with Grobe.
“The problem is that Moffat County Commissioners focus solely on oil and gas being the only answer,” said Luke Schafer, Western Slope advocacy director for Conservation Colorado. “There were more wells drilled (in Moffat County) last year than there were in the last 10 years.”
Schafer thinks that the county should also focus on other ways to create jobs through tourism and other methods.
“We’ve got a national monument in our borders,” he said. “All of these things bring folks to our county already. No one is trying to rely on a single sector of the economy to create jobs.”
As far as the Vermillion Basin, Schafer believes the opportunity for natural gas drilling was squashed because lawmakers in office during that time felt that the basin needed to be preserved for generations to come.
“The county can want drilling to occur (anywhere in the county), but at the end of the day, the county commissioners are not a drilling company,” he said.
The subcommittee highlighted many items Thursday, including that the production of oil and natural gas can create $111 billion in new federal, state and local tax revenues and potentially 3 million new jobs nationwide.
“Quite often political will, rather than facts, dictate whether or not to develop particular energy projects,” Grobe said to the subcommittee. “Unfortunately, this misguided approach has had numerous consequences for small businesses and our economies across the nation. Regulatory uncertainty for the oil and gas industry has a negative impact on small businesses.”
Ultimately, Grobe was happy he was able to attend the hearing.
“It’s national record now, so I’m excited about that,” he said.
Noelle Leavitt Riley can be reached at 970-875-1790 or firstname.lastname@example.org.