The first public comment period of Colorado’s newly formed Oil and Gas Task Force was marked by a resounding level of support for shale development from diverse and varied voices. From farm owners to oil and gas employees to school board members, the overwhelming consensus at the meeting was that shale development is providing huge benefits for Colorado.
Bob Deibel, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce – speaking on behalf of the Chamber’s 3000 members representing more than 300,000 employees – addressed the importance of the oil and gas industry to Colorado’s business community:
“We know in Colorado that we need a full array of energy options from natural gas to wind to solar. Nationally we are a top producer of clean natural gas and we are doing it with the strictest environmental statewide regulations in place. As this commission weighs options and thinks about solutions, it is important to remember that not only does this industry power our economy across the state but it provides us with a clean efficient form of energy and most importantly we are taking advantage of that energy in a smart and safe manner.”
Industry employees also spoke about their experience working in an industry that provides safe, clean energy while adhering to strict environmental guidelines. A petroleum engineer living in Highlands Ranch spoke of the satisfaction she gets from her career in the oil and gas industry:
“I live in Highlands Ranch Colorado and this is my 9th year as a petroleum engineer working in the oil and gas industry and I love it. When I was in college a decade ago I found out about the energy industry and I knew I had to be part of it. Not only do I love the details of what I do but I get satisfaction knowing that every day I help to provide energy and products that improve our quality of life. To some people this may sound hollow or trite, but to me it means a lot. I will always prefer to purchase energy made in America where I know it is regulated rather than places across the globe that may use sketchy practices or where revenue does not trickle down to increase the standard of living.”
Another oil and gas employee spoke of the commitment the industry has made to giving back to communities through collaborative projects:
“Sitting at a Broncos game recently my three year old looks up at me as an energy industry name is on the banner on the inside of that stadium, and says hey dad, look at that, that is the energy industry and he recognizes that this company is working together to collaboratively give back through the Broncos to the Denver Public Schools. It is a very, very proud moment for our industry and for what we are doing in the community.”
Justin Williams, a former Douglas County School Board member, spoke of how the oil and gas industry spared school districts from deeper cuts during the height of the recession:
“When I was elected in 2007, that was the beginning of the decline in the economy and I sat through so many executive sessions with my superintendent and our fellow Board Members discussing how we are going to make cuts in the schools and it was a reoccurring and chronic problem that went on for the first 4 years of my term on the Douglas County School Board. During that time, the gas revenues and taxes were increasing and it softened the blow to our schools considerably.”
Also speaking in support of the industry was a farm owner from Holyoke in Phillips County:
“I’m a farmer, I am directly impacted by the oil and gas industry because I use a lot of energy on my farm. I also am a land owner and I have no mineral rights on the property that I own. Because of unintended consequences that many times happen because of extra regulation, everything that is done by this commission all recommendations will have an effect on Colorado ranchers and farmers. I want you guys to think about that and think about all the unintended consequences that may come from more regulation. It’s important to work with the oil and gas industry and as I said, I have gas wells on my ground.”
Rita Lewis, president of the NAACP Denver chapter spoke of the role industry plays in providing jobs and revenue in our communities as well as lower energy costs:
“I’m here on behalf of communities of color as well as people in general. I’d like to say that it is important that you embrace this industry. This industry helps to feed people and their families as you have seen from lots of tags that people are wearing today. But not only that, this industry provides jobs. For instance, some people in our local government have said that Colorado industry has grown economically, well it has but it is still on it’s way up slowly, we are still recovering from the recession and this industry in itself, along with other industries can help people just by providing jobs also by keeping the cost of utilities down and most of all bringing money into our community. So that is what is really important to a lot of people. People, families, income and jobs.”
Nancy Sharpe, Arapahoe County Commissioner finished the public comment section with a perspective on what Arapahoe County has been able to accomplish at the local level, thanks to oil and gas development:
“I’m here today because the recommendations of this task force will impact the lives and livelihood of many people across our state. They will also impact city, county and state revenue. Oil and gas drilling has been a part of the business and economic environment of Arapahoe County for about 50 years. Several years ago however there was an uptick in interest and possible opportunity for increased production in our county. So our Board of County Commissioners both Republican and Democrat began the process of doing several things. Strengthening our relationship with the COGCC, gaining a better understanding of state regulations and developing a memorandum of understanding to not duplicate what was already in place in the state which we believe are comprehensive and tough regulations but to address our local concerns. We did that successfully and believe that our MOU like Elbert County and other counties across the state is a model for cities and counties rather than having to implement or impose moratoriums. We’ve established a process to continually address citizen and operator concerns and to look for workable solutions. Our county has taken a leadership role in establishing a way at a local level a way of continuing production in our county, because we wanted to do that we did not want to drive this industry out of our county that is helping us, our state and country with jobs and energy independence, protecting our infrastructure like local roads, which are not covered by the state and ensuring property rights of landowners. We found what we believe to be a good balance using existing tools that we have at the local level and we hope you will strongly consider what we and others have been able to do and achieve in our county without additional burdensome regulation that will not benefit our state, industry or our citizens.”
The first public comment period is an important milestone, which certainly sets the stage for the Task Force as this process continues. And, as these testimonies show, the support for the jobs, economic growth and environmental benefits of shale development in Colorado is overwhelming.