There's a few things happening on the oil and gas drilling front, so here's the update:
Business students at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs are ready to unveil their findings about whether drilling will be good or bad for El Paso County.
The study, conducted by 25 master's level business students, will be released at 4:45 p.m. Friday in Dwire Hall 121 on the UCCS campus, the university said in a press release. The meeting is open to the public and parking is free.
The comprehensive project researched environmental impact, economic impact, and oil and gas profitability in the county.
“Successful energy exploration and development could create hundreds of well-paying jobs, diversify the tax base, and increase local GDP by as much as 5 percent,” Fred Crowley, senior instructor, College of Business, and associate director of the Southern Colorado Economic Forum, said Crowley said oil and gas exploration could provide a more than $1 billion boost to the local economy. “The challenge for us is, how do we capture those jobs and incomes plus the jobs and incomes of the related service industries that don’t even exist here yet?” Crowley said.
The students have invited public and private decision makers to the presentation in the hope that their research will aid in the decision making process as local governments and business organizations grapple with policymaking related to the emergence of this industry.
Meantime, Vermont last week became the first state in the nation to ban hydraulic fracturing, the use of water, sand and chemicals to break open oil and gas deposits so they can be more economically extracted. More on that is here.
In a related matter, Mary Talbott, a local resident who has remained ever vigilant to new developments in the oil and gas industry, sends us this link about companies writing deals with residents that contain non-disclosure agreements. See that story on truth-out.org here
Here's an excerpt from that story, which also reports that the environmental group Earthjustice contends some of these secret agreements have been made in Colorado.
Besides air emissions standards recently introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency, fracking remains largely unregulated by the federal government and has been linked to earthquakes and air and water contamination across the country. Fracking companies disclose some of the chemicals used in fracking fluid, but others - and their concentrations - are often exempt from disclosure because they are considered trade secrets. Other exemptions buried in state and federal law allow drillers to avoid disclosing contents of fracking fluids after they return from deep underground.
Dr. Jerome Paulson, a physician and director of Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and the Environment, said that the fracking industry has told the public that the drilling procedure is safe, so there is no reason to hide information on health impacts from public view. Nondisclosure agreements with private landowners and disclosure exemptions, Paulson said, are preventing doctors from doing their jobs and protecting the public.
"How do we provide appropriate treatment recommendations to who are ill?" Paulson asked during a press conference last week. "For the population of individuals who are healthy, how do we provide prevention recommendations when we don't have the information?"
Lastly, the Western Energy Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group for the drilling industry, is upbeat about a new study "which highlights the adverse impacts of public lands policies on jobs, investment, and state revenue."
Economic Impacts of Oil & Gas Development on Federal lands in the West, prepared by SWCA Environmental Consultants, details the huge economic impact of 22 oil and natural gas projects proposed in the West. Collectively, these projects could create 120,905 jobs, $8 billion in wages, $27.5 billion in economic activity, and $139 million in government revenue every year. The total economic impact of these 22 projects over their anticipated 10-15 year lifespan is $383.5 billion.
In the federal oil and natural gas process, companies are responsible for proposing projects, and the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service is responsible for completing the environmental analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Development, and the resulting jobs and economic growth, cannot proceed until the government completes the NEPA analysis.
“Government delays during the environmental analysis phase are preventing significant job creation and economic activity,” said Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs. “If we look at projects outstanding for three years, which represent about 1,631 wells per year, we see that federal government delays are preventing the creation of 64,805 jobs, $4.3 billion in wages, and $14.9 billion in economic impact every year.
“Our members, especially the small independent businesses who are the backbone of the western economy, know first-hand how difficult it is to operate on public lands. Federal policies discourage domestic oil and natural gas production, and put the West at a disadvantage compared to other regions of the country without a preponderance of public lands. This study provides hard evidence of how bureaucratic delays are adversely affecting small businesses and working families,” said Sgamma.