Rifle officials gain insights at oil, gas banquet | PostIndependent.com

Rifle officials gain insights at oil, gas banquet

Heidi Rice
Post Independent Contributor

GRAND JUNCTION — “As the Piceance Basin goes, WPX goes.”

That’s the credo WPX Energy is promising and reiterated at the annual West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association banquet, “The Promise of the Piceance,” held Friday in Grand Junction.

The day-long event included a forum and expo during the day and wrapped up with a banquet, speakers and an awards presentation at the Two Rivers Conventions Center.

At least two Rifle officials — Mayor Randy Winkler and Michael Langhorne, president of the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. (RREDC), say they attended the event to help keep the lines of communication open with the oil and gas companies.

“They were glad that [Rifle] was represented there,” Winkler said. “They’re very committed to this area.”

Winkler went to the evening portion of the event, which included a dinner and listening to speakers that included David Ludlam, executive director of West Slope COGA; an official from EnCana Oil & Gas; and a keynote message from James J. Bender, WPX President & CEO. About 400 people attended.

“WPX is the number one [oil and gas company] in Colorado,” Winkler said. “As much as possible, it’s nice for us to know what their plans are for this area. I think we’re going to see them real soon coming to the council for some watershed permits, because that’s the first thing they have to do.”

WPX Energy announced earlier this year that it intends to build up to nine new natural gas well pads in its Beaver Creek watershed permit area south of Rifle.

“They’re really the only one doing anything here right now,” Winkler said.

Langhorne, who attended the invitation-only reception before the banquet, also said that he feels it is important that the city keep the lines of communication open with WPX Energy and foster a good relationship with them.

“It’s of huge importance to the economy of Rifle and western Garfield County,” Langhorne said. “We need to support our primary employer. When one company out there can single-handedly help this economy, that’s an important employer.”

Langhorne said he did not feel a newly formed group that emerged last week, called “Local Control Colorado,” would be good for western Garfield County.

Local Control Colorado is made up of citizens seeking to pass an initiative that would give local governments control over fracking and other oil and gas development in their communities. The group submitted the initiative to the Colorado Legislative Council late last month, and it will be reviewed before moving on to the state Title Board. According to reports, the measure will need about 86,000 voter signatures by August to make it onto the November ballot.

“We need to learn more science about [fracking] rather than just the opinions,” Langhorne said.

Winkler also felt that citizens, especially those on the Western Slope, needed to learn and understand more about oil and gas development before passing judgment.

“The main thing is to try to be positive about oil and gas and not negative,” he said. “We’re all for [drilling] as long as it is done responsibly and we keep the lines of communication open. And that’s my main goal — keep the lines of communication open.”

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