Our View: Getting ready for boom or bust
September 7, 2011
Steamboat Springs — It no longer is a question of if but rather when, how much and at what cost.
Increased oil and gas development is coming to Routt County, that much seems certain. If you're not convinced, consider some of what has taken place over the past few months:
In February, the State Land Board auctioned multiyear leases of surface or subsurface mineral rights on 19 Routt County land tracts totaling more than 5,200 acres. The auction netted $4.2 million.
On May 18, a Texas limited liability company bought the 3,400-acre Bugler's Ridge ranch outside Oak Creek for $7.1 million. The purchase was made sight unseen, and the listing real estate broker said he heard from Shell Oil and landmen representing other energy exploration companies before the transaction closed.
Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife officers have conducted about 30 Routt County site visits with energy companies during the past couple months to analyze the potential impact of oil and gas operations on critical wildlife habitats.
Routt County planner Chris Brookshire, the county's designee for oil and gas permitting requests and questions, has reported an increased number of inquiries from energy companies during the past few months. Last week, she reported having four completed permit applications on her desk.
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Similarly, the county assessor's office has been busy with oil landmen searching property records for land that extends over the Niobrara Shale layer.
Next week, the Routt County Board of Commissioners will vote on a permit application for Shell Oil to drill an oil and gas well near Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden. If approved, the drilling would take place 24 hours a day for a four-week period.
There are other examples, but the point hopefully is clear: The oil and gas industry is gearing up for what could be a substantial power play here in Routt County. No matter what you think of domestic energy exploration and production, there are important factors that must be carefully weighed and considered, including the economic, environmental and social impacts that oil and gas operations could have in our county. Thankfully, some, like our county government, already have begun to consider the long-term impacts and prepare for a potential boom by examining existing regulations. But that should hardly be the end of it.
In Hayden today, the sold-out Northwest Colorado Oil and Gas Symposium moderated by state Sen. Jean White will feature a panel of speakers representing government, land owners, energy companies and scientists. And later this month, the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley is planning its own public forum to discuss oil and gas issues.
We're encouraged by these local efforts to bring awareness to what could be a defining issue for years to come, and they serve as a reminder that there's certainly much more to be done in the ensuing months.