Overwhelming Pro-Energy Turnout at Rifle Oil and Gas Task Force Meeting
Task Force Learns about the “#WestSlopeWay”
Hundreds of oil and gas supporters made their voices heard yesterday in Rifle, Colorado, at the latest Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force meeting. The strong show of support follows the powerful turnout at previous Task Force meetings across the state of Colorado, from Denver, to Durango, to Loveland.
Proudly wearing “Oil and Gas: The Western Slope Way” stickers on their lapels, industry supporters had a loud and unified message for the Task Force: “The Western Slope Way means we work things out rather than regulate them,” as Frank Daly, a Silt rancher and president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, told the Denver Post.
“The Western Slope Way” was a recurring theme among the local elected officials, small business owners, oil and gas workers, and community members who spoke yesterday.
County Commissioners: Partnerships Matter
At the start of the Task Force meeting, County Commissioners from Mesa County, Routt County, Rio Blanco County, Moffat County, and Garfield County testified to the success they experienced working in partnership with oil and gas operators.
Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese said:
“We are very business-friendly in Mesa County, and we encourage the oil and gas industry…[We] make sure that our constituents’ concerns are being heard, that we are listening to our residents, but also that we are mitigating impacts and allowing the energy industry to move forward.”
Routt County Commissioner Timothy Corrigan seconded:
“We have had success with the LGD process. We have been able to work with our operators when we have wells that are sited in areas that we think are inappropriate. We’ve been able to work with them to find better locations. We’ve had very good success with Shell and Southwestern in terms of their willingness to voluntarily comply with some of the conditions we had. We believe that we can have orderly oil and gas development and we think that we can do that in partnership with our developers.”
Bruce Bertram, Delta County’s local government designee (LGD), spoke about Delta County’s experience working with individual companies:
“The county, in 2003, negotiated drilling conditions with the company which in some cases exceeded state regulations. The agreement between the county and the company became the basis of the county’s oil and gas regulations. Included in those conditions was an important requirement allowing access by the LGD to all company oil and gas operations at any time, a condition that paved the way to inspect for regulatory compliance… [These agreements] have fostered good working relationships while allowing the companies the regulatory certainty to continue their operations in Delta County. Economic impact from properly conducted oil and gas operations is a recognized and welcome benefit to the county.”
Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe described how oil and gas companies directly contribute to the communities in which they operate, from repairing Highway 213 to providing the resources needed for weed control:
“We found that partnering with the companies has worked very well for us… We just request that the commission doesn’t make a one-size-fits-all plan because it just will not work on the West Slope. Commissioners already have the authority over gas and oil development. If they’re not using it, they should be encouraged to do so.”
Garfield County Commissioner John Martin provided other examples of oil and gas companies giving back to communities through “contributions above and beyond their taxes,” especially in mitigating road and bridge impact:
“On average up till 2009, the industry contributed $2.9 million a year. [In] 2009, we got a little bit of a bump: Chevron Oil contributed $20 million to those particular issues. On an average basis now to present, it’s $1 million annually by the industry contributing to the road and bridge issues.”
Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn Bolton stressed that different local conditions demanded different regulatory approaches:
“We work very closely with the oil and gas companies which operate within our counties… We are constantly adopting and changing our regulatory structure for oil and gas within our county. We feel that it’s not productive to have multiple layers of regulations that do the same thing.”
Press Conference Shows Overwhelming Support for “West Slope Way”
In the afternoon, the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association hosted a press conference next door to the Task Force meeting where a coalition of local officials and business leaders stood before hundreds of oil and gas supporters expressing their support for the “West Slope Way.” As the Denver Post noted, “about a dozen Western Slope entities that turned out for a rousing Western Slope Way news conference.”
At the press conference, Senator-elect Ray Scott expressed his view of the West Slope Way stating:
“I can’t think of a better message than West Slope Way. I really like that. Because it brings out the Western Spirit of all the folks that live in Western Colorado and what we thrive for and what we want to do. We have to be very, very attuned to what’s going on with regulations with the energy industry. You don’t have to look any further than the gas pumps right now to see what US production of energy is doing. We are down sixty cents a gallon roughly the last three or four months. That is working. That’s what works, energy production. It makes America run and that is so important for all of us.”
Meanwhile, with all of the supporters attending the press conference, the room hosting the Task Force meeting emptied out.
Here are just a few of the voices from the press conference:
“The Western way is a good way.”
“That is the Western Slope Way: working together to support our families and communities.”
“Our city was built on responsible energy development and we believe in relationships and collaboration.”
“We support responsible development of all of our energy resources.”
“Energy development and environmental concerns are not mutually exclusive.”
“We set the standard right here… That’s the spirit of what we have here, the people who live here and who care about the environment. We want to do it right.”
Community Members Express Support for the “West Slope Way” Before Task Force
Back before the Task Force, community members affected by oil and gas operations, such as rancher Carrie Couey and Amy Williams of Citizens Supporting Property Rights, expressed their appreciation for the industry to the Task Force.
Ms. Couey described the close friendships she has developed with energy workers on her land:
“We have formed many durable friendships with the guys and gals who have worked with us over the years on leases, pipeline right-of-way, and more. We get Christmas cards from…old landmen who worked on the ranch. These are honest people that we are proud to have as part of our ranching family… Our experiences with the energy industry have been very positive. I can’t count the amount of times the energy guys and gals have helped us out and round up the cattle when things have not gone quite as planned. It was an energy guy and gal who pulled our feed truck up when it slipped off of a very icy road and the chains broke. When I had a bear wanting to come into my house, it was an energy guy who helped me out. Do they seem like the kind of people we want to put out of work? I look forward to a future of both energy and agriculture because I love them both.”
She also noted the direct, tangible benefits offered by oil and gas companies:
“There is not a person in this room who does not benefit from the taxes paid on these royalties. I am thankful for the support, jobs provided by the oil and gas industry. Many folks I know benefit from oil and gas one way or another: the heavy equipment industry gets work; grocery store clerk sell groceries to oil and gas folks, and the teachers teach kids from oil and gas families. Affordable energy makes it cheaper for us to harvest our hay and feed our livestock. Nothing is done without conventional energy in this part of the state. The farms and ranches cannot turn without them.
As a mother to 6 beautiful children – yes, 6 – I also want to thank the oil and gas industry for their generous support in our 4-H programs. It has been said that the county 4-H programs raised more successful kids than just about anything around. I would agree. This would not be the same without the energy industry such generosity would make it possible for the young people in our area to attend college. Hopefully a few will go to the energy classes offered at our local college, also made possible by the same generosity.”
Couey also said,
“These oil and gas professionals are proud of what they do, and these people deserve respect. Instead, we punish them with more regulation.”
Amy Williams, from Citizens Supporting Property Rights, said:
“We in Colorado have the most robust set of rules surrounding oil and gas development in the nation. The governor and legislature need to slow down and allow the new rules and regulations to work.
When I look at the current stringent oil and gas regulatory environment, it becomes apparent that any clamor for additional regulation is being used as a strategy tool to discourage and eliminate oil and gas development. We must provide leadership to eliminate the hypocrisy surrounding opposition to oil and gas development, or its sister, application of unnecessary burdensome regulation. These are hypocritical positions as long as we are using the resource, and we all use the resource. In fact, it’s a resource that makes our lives better every day.”
At the end of the day, numerous oil and gas workers, small business owners and local residents spoke in the public comment period of the meeting. They addressed the economic benefits the industry provides to communities, as well as health concerns raised by residents living in close proximity to oil and gas operations.
Moffat County Commissioner John Kincaid:
“I would argue that energy is the only engine that will possibly drive our nation’s economy forward in the future. Certainly that’s true in Moffat County.
We need oil and gas development in Moffat County. There’s an estimate that we have 72 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in our county. Please let us develop that. We need the money to run our county government, our schools, our hospital. We need it for our economy to thrive. We are hurting right now, and I would argue that the vast majority of the Western Slope is hurting right now, too… Please allow our economy and Colorado to thrive and grow, develop, and let’s turn Colorado into a great state.”
Keira Bresnahan, Chairperson of the Piceance Energy Action Council, said:
“[We] have seen over the years the rippling and crippling effect…this industry can have on their business. As it booms, their businesses boom, and as the presence of it decreases, they take a hit, too. We have to think about the education that this industry funds: our schools need this industry here, our people need this industry, our community needs this industry, our neighbors do…We have the most stringent oil and gas regulations in the nation but yet that is not enough for some of the angry, vocal minority. This industry, which is not only responsible for producing the energy that keeps Americans warm and fed and provides the means to keep their lights on, but [it is] also the economic lifeline for communities like ours.”
Davey Graham, a business owner, said:
“A big part of what feeds our families has to do with the industry.”
An oil and gas worker said:
“I am not going to be anti-fracking, because I’m here, and I have food on my table and a roof over my head because Colorado has oil and gas.”
Regarding the health risks of oil and gas operations, one oil and gas worker told the Task Force:
“I make frack chemicals. I handle it, I breathe it every day… I think I am the picture of health.”
Another oil and gas worker explained:
“We breathe the air, we drink the water, we care about our health as well as everybody else in this room…. Everything is being taken into consideration for people’s health. We are not a mile away, we’re not 500 feet away, we’re on the well head with wrenches in hand, working on them every day, for 12, 14 hours a day.”
The Bottom Line
Happily, yesterday’s voices at the Task Force meeting shows us once again that strong support for the oil and gas industry is resounding from all over the state, from Denver to Durango, from Loveland to – now – Rifle.