Our view: The highest stakes

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Energy development is impacting Colorado at a startling rate, spurring news and opinions that seem to change by the moment.

On Thursday, for example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered an air-quality study to assess impacts of natural gas drilling in Moffat County's Vermillion Basin. The study could set back drilling plans in the environmentally sensitive area by a year, and again anger Moffat County commissioners, who in a July 17 letter to Gov. Bill Ritter said closing Vermillion to drilling could cost the county $5.7 million annually.

On Aug. 7, Routt County Commissioners approved an oil drilling permit for Comet Ridge USA on land west of Milner that has been home to the Morton family since 1942.

In June, the Colorado Energy Research Institute announced that oil and gas is now Colorado's top industry, pumping $22.9 billion into the state's economy each year - a figure that will grow exponentially as drilling expands.

Meanwhile, wind turbines are sprouting like cornstalks in Northwest Colorado, solar energy is heating up in the San Luis Valley, ethanol production is reviving economies across the Eastern Plains, and coal is burning around the clock in Hayden and Craig.

It's a lot to take in.

In an effort to make sense of it all, the Pilot & Today stepped back this summer and took a snapshot - a large, wide-angle snapshot - of how energy development is impacting our state.

The five-section "Power Play" series was published Fridays from July 20 through Aug. 17, and runs as a consolidated package in today's newspaper. The series is the culmination of several months of research, travel, planning and collaboration by newspaper staff. News editor Meg Wortman directed an effort that included trips to drilling rigs near Rifle, an oil shale research facility southwest of Meeker, a wind farm in Logan County, the Hayden Station power plant and more.

Photographer Brian Ray took hundreds of pictures, videographer Matt Stensland shot hours of film, reporter Mike Lawrence wrote thousands of words, and copy editor Mike Hart put it all together into a colorful, informative package.

The entire series, with video footage, can be viewed online through the "Power Play" icon at www.steamboatpilot.com.

It is a product we hope increases awareness about energy issues and elevates the conversation for our readers.

If there is a single fact that "Power Play" makes clear, it is this: Energy development is and will be the defining factor that shapes Colorado's growth, now and in years to come.

It's about water. It's about jobs. It's about politics. It's about the environment.

It's about, simply, our way of life.

We hope citizens will become active, and we hope state and local governments will use caution when forming and implementing plans for land use and energy development.

Because, one way or another, energy development impacts all of us.

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