Ken Brenner: Are we prepared?
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Steamboat Springs — The recent articles in the June 23 Today and June 29 Pilot alerting us to a significant increase in the level of interest in Routt County from oil and gas companies hopefully caught your attention. They caught mine. Are we prepared to find the right balance of energy production and good paying jobs with the many direct and indirect impacts to our region?
A visit to the areas around Rifle and Parachute along I-70 illustrate how significant the impacts of gas development on the land, air and water can be. Further examination of the impacts on roads, water and waste water treatment, hospitals, human services, police and emergency services, and to the public school systems makes me wonder whether we can really tackle the effects of gas and oil development.
Garfield County is supposed to add 50,000 new residents in the next 12 years, nearly doubling its population. Are we prepared?
Industry speculators will be the first to arrive, and begin taking steps to add Routt County to the list of places where oil and natural gas production is occurring. Eventually, the companies, with names such as Williams and Encana will buy them out and begin drilling. Routt County will continue its long history of providing energy for the United States, which currently includes coal production and electricity generation from the Hayden Station.
In the face of this pressure, it is important to remember that we also have a proud agricultural heritage, abundant wildlife, diverse recreation and tourism, and a second home/retirement community. We need to be concerned that, if we’re not vigilant in protecting these other values, Routt County could experience growth in the future like Garfield County is now.
There was a rulemaking process going on in Denver last week to try to address the impacts of drilling for natural gas and oil in Colorado. The amount of drilling in Western Colorado is at record levels and there have been significant increases in technology. The update is appropriate because it has been more than decade since the rules were last revised.
I support rule changes that will balance energy production with responsible practices and use of new technology that protect air and water quality, critical wildlife habitat and northwest Colorado’s unique landscape. I believe that we can produce energy and ensure for the future the public health and environment, long after the industry is gone.
We do have the ability to ask our elected officials to do everything necessary to prepare us for the arrival of oil and gas drilling in the Yampa Valley, and for the future after the oil and gas industry leaves. That means state and local officials need to coordinate their efforts to protect both the people who live here and the environment they rely on to make a living.
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