Editorial: Mineral management
January 29, 2011
The recent influx of mineral leasing activities in Moffat County is providing a needed boost to the area after a year of economic stress. The activity is welcome, but the Editorial Board contends our community needs to be smart about management.
Last spring, the Moffat County economy was left beat up from the 2010 legislative session and a growing attitude about a certain natural resource.
That attitude was manifested in Colorado House Bill 10-1365, also known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, a measure aimed at coal and by no means beneficial to the area.
But, Editorial Board members are relieved to learn of a new, expanding interest in harvesting two other resources Moffat County has to offer — oil and gas.
Recently, there has been a dramatic and exciting mineral leasing effort from oil and gas companies in a wide area surrounding Craig. Those companies are interested in leasing minerals in the local portions of a geological layer called the Niobrara formation, which is known for its oil.
The mineral leases, as one of the many landmen filling the Moffat County Clerk and Recorder's office put it, are nothing but good news for the community.
The more than 700 oil and gas leases and memorandums filed with the clerk's office since October not only place bonus money in residents' pockets, but will also serve to greatly benefit the community and local economy.
The area the oil and gas industry is interested in leasing spans more than 550,000 acres. At the going price of $250 per acre, that nets $138 million in mineral owners' pockets.
That money is desperately needed in the community considering the spell of tough economic news and conditions we have endured.
The uses are endless — from saving the family home or ranch from foreclosure, to putting a new truck in the driveway of a hardworking coal miner.
However, for all of the local benefits the leasing activity has, there is a side to oil and gas activity Editorial Board members are concerned about properly managing.
If exploration, drilling and mass oil production of local sections of the Niobrara comes to be, our community needs to manage the influx of benefits with extreme caution.
The oil and gas industry needs to play by our rules and we need to be smart about it.
One of the most prominent concerns should be breaking the boom and bust cycle Moffat County knows all too well.
The potential for growth of our infrastructure and community assets is great, but the consequences that come after the boom are just as great.
Take a look around at other communities that haven't managed the oil and gas industry well — new schools, infrastructure and growth that can't be funded or sustained — and you'll see what local officials should steer us away from, if drilling begins.
Officials should also be cautious of other negative consequences of oil and gas extraction. While drilling and reclamation standards are currently sufficient for the state's production areas, there should be concerns about too much drilling in the area.
Simply put, a "drill baby, drill" attitude should be balanced with one of caution for the well being of the environment and local quality of life, considering the proximity of the drilling interest to the community.
If a balance can be struck to manage those concerns — environmental, social and economical — then we should welcome oil and gas development.
After all, the benefits have been good to us so far.
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