Governments prepare for oil boom |

Governments prepare for oil boom

Brandon Johnson

When the oil shale boom hit Northwest Colorado more than 25 years ago, local governments weren’t prepared for it.

“We were trying to play catch-up all the time,” said Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado executive director Jim Evans.

By the time anybody knew what effect the boom would have on the region’s people and economies, it was almost over, Evans said.

Mining the shale and extracting oil from it failed in the early 1980s because the process was too expensive. Shell Oil Co. is developing a new, less-expensive process for extracting oil from the shale, but the process is at least a few years away.

With oil shale development again a possibility in the region, AGNC and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs have commissioned a socioeconomic impact study to determine what effect another oil shale boom could have.

AGNC voted to commission the study at a meeting in the Craig City Council chambers Thursday.

With commercial oil shale development at least four years out, Evans said the study will give local governments an idea of where their economies are before development hits and how they may need to change.

The study will look at Northwest Colorado’s population and try to identify how many more workers will be needed, Evans said.

Tim Sarmo, DOLA regional manager for Northwest Colorado, said the $48,000 study could start as soon as next month and will take three years.

Funding for the study will come from DOLA and AGNC, which gets funding from dues paid by members, including Moffat County and the city of Craig.

The majority of oil shale development is expected to occur in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, where it failed in the early 1980s.

The study will look at Moffat, Routt and Mesa counties as well because oil shale development is expected to effect the entire region, Sarmo said.

“Just as gas is centered in Garfield County, the impacts are fairly broad,” Sarmo said.

Evans said an oil shale boom in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties could require electricity from Moffat and Routt counties.

Oil shale development also could mean increased railroad use throughout the region, Evans said.

Moffat County Commissioner Saed Tayyara said after Thursday’s meeting that local governments learned from the mistakes of the last boom.

“We will be prepared,” he said.

State Sen. Jack Taylor, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said Northwest Colorado needs to be ready for an economic boom from oil and gas development.

“I don’t think people have realized the magnitude of what’s going to hit us,” Taylor said.

Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, represents District 8, which encompasses Northwest Colorado.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031 or

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