Bold action must be taken on energy bill

By DON THOMPSON, a leader of REP’s Colorado Chapter

AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: published in the Pueblo Chieftain on December 2, 2007


As a conservative, I believe in conservation. There is nothing less conservative than squandering our natural resources, the health of our communities, and the future of our economy for momentary gains. Oil and gas drilling is skyrocketing in Colorado with no change in the careless treatment of our water and natural resources.

Imagine we could hold oil and gas developers to similar environment and health standards as other industries. Imagine we had diversified energy sources and could do more with less energy, minimizing the number of wells we drill altogether.

We have the technology and this fall the Congress has the opportunity to start making this a reality. Congress needs to enact energy legislation that promotes clean energy, reduces our nation’s dependence on oil, and reforms drilling of oil and gas on Western public lands. The health of our environment, our economy, and our children is dependent on making these steps.

In 2006, Colorado approved nearly 6,000 drilling permits, twice the number in 2004. One gas well used to develop coal-bed methane can produce more than 20,000 gallons of saline, sometimes toxic, water per day, draining aquifers and damaging soil productivity. Oil and gas companies developing federal minerals are not required to consult with landowners, make plans to protect water quality, tell the public what toxics they are using or be held accountable to important public health and environmental laws, like the Drinking Water Act.

The U.S House passed important and modest reforms to make sure that oil and gas development on Western public lands takes place responsibly. However, these reforms that seek to protect our water, environment, private-property rights, and public health, may not make it into the final bill without support. We need to act now.

We need oil and gas, but that does not mean we have to sacrifice our health and those places that make Colorado one of the most beautiful states in the country. The oil and gas reforms in the House include protections for Roan Plateau, a favorite spot for hunters, fishermen and hikers. By using advanced technology, like directional drilling, we can get to the resources while minimizing the impact on this remarkable place.

The bill is a start, and is limited in how much it can protect places in the San Luis Valley, like the Baca National Wildlife Refuge.

However, these reforms will be very important in giving local people and landowners in the San Luis Valley and statewide more of a say in the drilling decisions on our land.

We can be responsible in how we produce oil and gas. We need to diversify our energy sources and do more with less energy. A kilowatt saved is a kilowatt of energy gained. Congress needs to include the Renewable Energy Standard of 15 percent renewable energy use by 2020. Colorado has a rich wind energy resource and with support could bring thousands of new jobs to the state.

Congress also needs to include the Senate’s 35 mile-per-gallon (mpg) by 2020 fuel economy standard in the final energy bill. This would save 1.2 million barrels of oil a day by 2020, half of what we import from the Persian Gulf, decreasing our oil dependency on other nations efficiently and effectively.

We need to take bold steps to protect Colorado’s special places, the strength of the future American economy and our energy security. I ask our representatives in Washington to support the Renewable Energy Standard, the 35 mpg by 2020 Fuel Efficiency Standard passed by the Senate, and the oil and gas reforms in the final legislation.

We are a strong, creative nation and I have no doubt we can meet the challenge of providing clean and secure energy while not sacrificing places like the Roan Plateau.