Guest Commentary: Sustainable energy development key in West

10-13-2011 // John Gale

This excerpt is from an op-ed appearing in the Denver Post

The chorus has started again on how making it easier and quicker to approve energy development will spur the Western economy. Tapping the West's vast mineral resources would generate many jobs and much prosperity, if only government got rid of costly, burdensome regulations -- or so the song goes. It's an old, familiar tune that falls flat.

A few years ago, wildlife conservation organizations, led by the Colorado Wildlife Federation, helped write new lyrics. They joined with community groups and landowners in developing and promoting thoughtful oil and gas guidelines to safeguard the state's world-class big game herds, fishing areas, water and scenic vistas that are a multibillion-dollar, sustainable part of the economy. The Colorado legislature unanimously passed House Bill 1298 in 2007, requiring that impacts on wildlife, public health and the environment be considered when approving oil and gas drilling.

The concerns that propelled leasing and drilling reforms in Colorado and nationwide remain, despite the troubled economy. Western sportsmen and other outdoor recreationists recognize and support the need for fuel and the jobs and revenue it creates for the region. Reasonable regulations on the oil and gas industry are not impeding any of that.

One example is the Bureau of Land Management's recent announcement that protests of leases on public lands have dropped dramatically as federal officials address issues before a lease is issued. The result is fewer obstacles and less time and uncertainty for the industry.

And production has increased. The U.S. Interior Department​ reports that total natural gas production rose 5 percent from 2008 to 2010 and onshore oil production on public lands increased 5 percent from 2009 to 2010. The BLM processed more than 5,000 drilling permit applications on federal and tribal lands last year, according to the Interior Department, and has processed about 4,100 so far this year despite the lingering economic slump and low natural gas prices .

Roughly 41 million acres of public land are under oil and gas leases. Only 12 million acres are producing, according to federal figures.

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