The Rocky Mountain News did a series on the energy boom rocking parts of Colorado and how communities are enjoying, coping, and mitigating the impacts (or at least trying to). The series offers a a number of perspectives and the challenges involved in local-state-federal policy making and planning.
The day 1 article in the series, entitled “The billion dollar question: What if?”, is particularly interesting because two state legislators have taken seemingly opposite positions from the ones you would think they would take given their respective political ties. Their perspective is likely influenced by their location place in the state and the energy boom.
Representative Josh Penry, a Mesa County Republican, is witnessing the energy boom first hand and is a big supporter of creating a permanent trust fund from oil and gas severance taxes – similar to what Wyoming did a decade ago. Chris Romer, a Democratic Senator from the Denver Metro area, favors the more measured approach of analyzing how taxes are currently collected and allocated before the state tries to set up a permanent fund.
Who’s the conservative in this debate?
Read the entire series
Garfield County received front page space in the Sunday Denver Post due to the energy boom driving the county’s economy.
Jason Blevins story captures the essence of life in Garfield County since the boom began five years ago. As New Castle Mayor Frank Breslin says, “It’s just all happening so fast out here. I just dart around like a bumblebee.”
The economic growth has been a boon to a county mired in a slump cause by the overnight departure of Exxon (Black Sunday) in 1982 and the county now has more jobs than it has workers. The challenge for the public sector is to try tokeep up and pay for the infrastructure to support the increases in traffic, homes, and wastewater while competing with the gas companies for workers.
Blevins quotes Christy Hamrick, the finance director for Garfield County’s 4,500-student school district, “We pay drivers $14 an hour, and they pay $22 an hour. We have to compete with that, and we’ve seen lots of turnover. ”
EnCana USA has won Garfield County approval to operate up to 31 temporary facilities housing nearly 750 natural gas development workers north of Parachute.
Each of the facilities, known informally as man camps, is allowed to hold up to 24 employees and contractors. None would be operated more than one year under the county permits.
Energy companies have used temporary housing facilities under the permission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, but the county learned it had authority to regulate them and instituted its permitting process last November.
Parachute Mayor Roy McClung wrote to the county that while the onsite housing will help, the town still will see traffic impacts related to EnCana’s drilling plans and is worried about overloaded intersections and the lack of funding to improve them.
He suggested in the letter that the county needs to be collecting impact fees from such developments to meet highway improvement needs.
Read Dennis Webb’s full article . . .
The Colorado Senate endorsed Gov. Bill Ritter’s plan to overhaul the state’s oil and gas regulatory process.
The Senate approved House Bill 1341, which will expand and change the makeup of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to include environmental, wildlife, public health and landowner representatives.
The bill will reduce from five to three the number of industry voices while expanding the commission to nine members.
The seven-member panel is dominated by oil and gas
representatives, which critics say amounts to the industry regulating
Read the full article . . .
Transit oriented development is gaining traction around the U.S. (it’s already popular in many other countries) because it can address many community issues — provide affordable housing, increase transit service, prevent loss of open space, create public places — at the same time.
And now, in case you needed another reason to support TOD, it can also save the planet. As San Mateo County Supervisior Adrienne Tissier writes,
The solutions to global warming are found in modern urban planning and zoning and three little words: Transit Oriented Development. Build well-designed, affordable housing within walking distance of efficient mass transit, and the air-fouling traffic jams will unclog themselves. Better yet, build well-designed, affordable housing within walking distance of jobs, schools and retail, and car use will plummet.
It is nice to know that something good for a community has a global benefit as well.
Saanich, BC wants residential builders to build “green” by cutting “red” tape. It is giving priority to applications for housing projects using energy-efficient components and provide those builders rebates of up to 30 per cent on building-permit fees.
Read the full article . . .
The oil trapped in the oil shale of Western Colorado maybe vast, but it is unclear whether it makes economic sense to get it. Canadian Peter Tertzakian thinks supplying the world’s 1,000 barrel a second oil addiction will be far from easy. But that doesn’t mean businesses aren’t hedging their bets.
Earlier this week, the Bush administration authorized oil-shale leases for five sites on public land in western Colorado. As Mike Soraghan writes, they are the first leases since the shale bust of the 1980s wrenched the region’s economy.
The approval was for relatively small-scale “research and development” leases, but it was the government’s biggest endorsement yet of oil shale, a vast petroleum resource with a checkered past.
The 10-year research and development leases clear the way for Shell, Chevron Corp. and EGL Resources to use 160-acre sites of public land between Rangely and Meeker in Rio Blanco County.
The leases can be converted later into larger, commercial leases.
Shell has been operating on private land in the area, but shale deposits owned by the federal government are thicker and richer with organic material.
All three of the companies are experimenting with heating the shale underground to melt organic material into oil, then pumping it out of the ground.
Read the full article by Mike Soraghan . . .