by Pam Zubeck
Just as the debate heats up over potential environmental damage from oil and gas drilling, the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce releases its "Monday Report" featuring comments from longtime local businessman Harlan Ochs.
Ochs, of course, is in the petroleum business, having founded a company in 1956 that distributes gasoline, diesel fuel and lubricants.
Meantime, Tuesday the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is due to decide whether to require drillers to disclose the fluids they use in hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking. The industry has argued it should be allowed to withhold information on chemicals' it considers "trade secrets."
Environmental advocates say this isn't good, because the proposed rule contains no procedure for determine whether a chemical truly is proprietary, which means companies could label all their chemicals as such, say officials with the Colorado Environmental Coalition.
The Dec. 5 hearing on the matter lasted more than 11 hours. Commissioners are expected to make a decision Tuesday but could put it off.
In any event, here's what the local guru of the petroleum industry had to say about the industry and its growth potential:
A new industry is interested in investing in Colorado Springs and El Paso County. Its impact could create many well-paying jobs, increase tax revenues and potentially pump new dollars and vigor into our economy.
This industry is oil production, and areas of El Paso County are now of interest to oil producers because of improved drilling technologies developed in recent years and a geologic formation called the Niobrara Formation, which underlies part of El Paso County and counties to our north. Many in the oil industry believe there are large quantities of oil that can now be produced profitably in our area.
El Paso County does not currently have oil production, except for a few exploration wells done a number of years ago, but Eastern El Paso County and the neighboring counties of Ellicott, Douglas, Arapahoe, Adams and others have become targets for mineral leasing during the past 12 months that may lead to more exploration and production of oil.
The Banning Lewis Ranch at the eastern edge and a part of the city of Colorado Springs has attracted much attention for its oil production potential. One company has already made a large investment in acquiring 18,000 acres of the Banning Lewis Ranch in the city of Colorado Springs and has also purchased about 100,000 acres of oil leases in central and eastern El Paso County. This became known when a bankruptcy foreclosure sale several months ago revealed the high bidder for the easterly 18,000 acres to be an oil company. The company is Ultra Petroleum and they intend to find and produce oil on this acreage and do not plan to develop the land as a residential community. They have permits from El Paso County to drill three exploratory wells.
El Paso County Commissioners and the Colorado Springs City Council have each declared a 6 month moratorium on the granting of permits for drilling for oil, except for the three exploratory wells that have been permitted to Ultra from the County. These permits do not involve the Banning Lewis holdings of Ultra, but are on sites leased to Ultra in the County and are part of the approximately 100,000 acres leased by Ultra in El Paso County. During this 6 month moratorium, both City Council and the County Commissioners will be holding public hearings and developing regulations for the drilling and development of production in the City and in the County.
The two governing bodies have heard concerns from city and county residents who fear that this oil activity will impact the local environment. This concern is based on reports from other parts of Colorado and other states using fracturing (FRACKING), the oil bearing underground formation to facilitate the movement of the oil into the gathering pipes and pumps. Other concerns include damage to roads and surface areas, traffic noise, blowing dust, soil erosion and surface contamination. Many others believe that putting safety measures into the rules and regulations will help mitigate the issues that cause these concerns.
The development of oil production here would help Colorado’s economy and tax revenues. It would also help reduce US dependence on foreign oil and reduce our negative trade balance and would contribute to our national defense capabilities. Facts show a very positive impact this industry could make in our local economy, as well.
It is imperative that we take a good look at this industry and carefully weigh the pluses and minuses and make decisions that promise the best for our economy, standard of living, and environment.