Western Slope energy drilling still expanding | VailDaily.com

Western Slope energy drilling still expanding

Phillip YatesGlenwood Springs CorrespondentVail, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentAs drilling continues to expand on the Western Slope, the energy industry faces more rules, including a new federal law that protects wildlife.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado Natural gas permits issued in Garfield County last year accounted for 40 percent of all oil and gas permits issued in Colorado, according to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission statistics released Monday.The commission issued 6,368 permits in 2007, with 2,550 of those permits for wells in Garfield County, the statistics show. The number of permits issued in the county last year increased by 38 percent from 2006, when 1,844 were issued. That year, Garfield County permits accounted for 31 percent of all permits issued in Colorado.The growth in oil and gas permits shows the continuing and expanding natural gas boom in Garfield County, which stretches into parts of the gas-rich Piceance Basin.Clare Bastable, conservation director for the Colorado Mountain Club, a recreational and conservation organization based out of Golden, said the surge in oil and gas permitting in Garfield County is a sign that the area is ground zero for energy development in Colorado and around the Rocky Mountains right now.There is no question that the drilling is increasing exponentially in Garfield County, Bastable said.Companies like Williams Production RMT have targeted the area because of its large natural gas resources. Williams has 2,050 wells in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.

Those wells produce more than 700 million cubic feet of natural gas a day enough to heat 2.5 million homes. The company, which plans its operations three years ahead of time, plans to drill up to 500 wells per year in the area for the next several years, said Susan Alvillar, a spokeswoman for the company.The increase in permits in the county comes when the energy industry in Colorado is at a crossroads as the commission works to draft new rules for oil and gas permitting. New federal laws order the commission to make sure drilling does not harm human health or wildlife. The commission is holding a series of five meetings to gather public comment on the new rules. It also it talking to environmental, sportsmen and agriculture organizations. Some energy industry groups have criticized the new rules.Meg Collins, president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, said one the industrys main concerns is that the rulemaking process is going to add layers and layers of paperwork and might add to lengthy permitting delays.It could create delays of up to six and eight months, Collins said. Industry is very concerned about what this rulemaking is going to do and how that is going to affect their ability to work and thrive in Garfield County.However, Bastable said that when residents look at the amount of drilling, it becomes clear that we be extremely thoughtful and extremely careful about where, when and how we are drilling in Garfield County. No one is saying that we shouldnt be drilling in Garfield County. We are getting tremendous revenue from it, we are providing our nation with necessary energy supplies, but I dont think there is anyone who disagrees that we have to be really thoughtful and really careful about how we approach gas drilling in Garfield County, said Bastable.Although Garfield County has seen a tremendous increase in the number of permits issued, it lags behind Weld County in the number of active wells. The commission statistics show that Garfield County has 4,423 active wells, compared to Weld Countys 14,424 wells.

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