My View: Protecting Our Colorado Legacy

Majority of Colorado voters want drilling done in the safest, most responsible way

10-08-2010 // Steve Torbit

This opinion piece, written by NWF's Steve Torbit, originally appeared on Huffington Post.

With the relentless barrage of election-year polls and political ads, it's easy to focus on the candidates and forget about the issues. But after the election hoopla subsides, the sad fact is that we'll still be facing most of the same challenges.

In the West, that means how best to use our public lands - and how to keep our air clean, our water safe and our wildlife habitat healthy.

For the past several years, much of Colorado's landscape has been overrun with drilling rigs, roads, trucks and pipelines. Unfortunately, the big footprint of energy development too often permanently scars the land that's being tapped. And that means the same land and water that generations of us have hunted on and fished in is irreparably harmed. In Colorado alone, there have been more than a thousand drilling-related spills and accidents, resulting in millions of gallons spilled.

The transition to clean, renewable energy isn't going to happen overnight. So drilling, which remains an important part of our diverse economy, is going to be with us for a while. That's why it makes sense for policymakers to take steps to protect our public lands by ensuring that drilling is done in a safer and more thoughtful way.

Based on the results of a recent survey by the National Wildlife Federation, it's clear that most Colorado voters want greater oversight of oil and gas development. Like most of us, I'd bet the people polled understand how vital energy is to everyday life - and they realize some drilling is inevitable.

They just want it done carefully, so we can protect fish, wildlife and their habitat. And, based on the survey results, people don't appear to trust the energy companies to police themselves.

The survey results support the efforts of NWF and others to encourage a balanced approach to energy development in the West. It also shows that people don't buy into industry's argument that we have to choose between safe, clean landscapes and jobs. It's simply not an either-or situation.

Each step in the process of developing fossil fuels is another opportunity for an accident, a spill, poorly designed equipment or a careless disregard for fish, wildlife and people. And each of those possibilities would have an adverse impact on hunting, fishing and other recreational opportunities in the West. Our research shows that a majority of Colorado voters, regardless of their gender, economic or political background or location, want energy development on our Western lands done responsibility, so fish, wildlife and water are a priority - not an afterthought.

Based on the policies Interior Secretary Ken Salazar introduced earlier this year, we think he agrees with the need for careful planning in managing our public lands. His onshore oil and gas leasing policies call for stronger scientific review before any development decisions are made. We applaud his efforts and encourage him to take further steps to keep our air clean, our water safe and our wildlife abundant and healthy.

That a majority of Colorado voters want drilling done in the safest, most responsible way, is just common sense.

Those of us in the West love our open spaces and will fight to ensure that our children, our grandchildren and future generations have access to the same air, water and land we cherish. Regardless of what happens on Election Day, those values are here to stay.

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