Carlson Guest Column: Take a close look at the benefits of gas development |

Carlson Guest Column: Take a close look at the benefits of gas development

Eric Carlson

There is a great story here on the West Slope of Colorado, and it’s about the ongoing development of natural gas resource and its far-reaching and ongoing benefits.

Just last week, a large gathering of community and business leaders cheered the six students at Colorado Mesa University who had their lives changed becoming Energy Scholars. These are permanent endowments created by local people and businesses. These scholarships will be here every year, forever.

We see young women and men from all backgrounds awarded these merit scholarships, choosing an energy career because it’s a great career, right here in western Colorado. The Energy Scholar Series at Colorado Mesa University Foundation works with the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association to develop even more opportunities for our local students in the future.

These opportunities are only possible because of natural gas development, its local history, the personal involvement of educators with industry, and the opportunities we have here in the Piceance in the future. Having a local university available to train future engineers, land managers, business analysts, investors and field operators is so important to this region’s future.

Another aspect to this story is best-described by an annual honor given to an individual who has been committed to West Slope energy development. Pioneer of the Piceance, Larry Warnke, spoke about the advances over his decades-long career.

“The use of technology, attention to safety, protecting the environment, and the care taken with land owners to work with us to develop this resource is far better today,” he said.

Mr. Warnke was referring to industry ingenuity developing technology to reduce the land disturbed, to reduce emissions by remote and highly sensitive devices to detect leaks that are repaired swiftly, and to recycle, treat and reuse water. Companies focus on the health and safety of workers and surrounding community, as evidenced in the results of independent studies. (Characterizing Emissions from Natural Gas Drilling and Well Completion Operations in Garfield County, CSU, 2018)

We’ve accomplished much by industry’s substantial contributions through taxes used in our schools, our public safety, even hundreds of outdoor recreation projects, including local projects in Grand Junction, Palisade, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, and Paonia. How ironic that people who appreciate and enjoy these amenities seem to prefer an end to natural gas development.

We would love to see those same people step forward to put their personal wealth and their business profits into scholarship endowments at CMU, to build the public facilities that energy taxes are already completing, to show that they really care about the future of our youth, the elderly and the most vulnerable. Maybe they can recognize what we see already — talented, caring youth that desire a future in their home town gaining the skills that will provide a good job and a great place to live, where we have clean air, and pure water.

Lastly, we appreciate our West Slope elected leaders who teach others about energy development. They know how to work with the industry, speaking to one another, not just slogans and op-eds, but sitting down to work out solutions.

We have coexisted with outdoor recreation for decades. In fact, natural gas development on public lands often is designed to improve access for recreational users. We can continue to develop this immense resource that is demanded worldwide. There will be natural gas developed to meet worldwide demands. Let’s meet those demands right here in western Colorado where industry adheres to the strictest emissions requirements. Let’s do it right, right here in the Piceance, where the many benefits are abundantly apparent every day.

Eric Carlson is executive director for the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association. He Carlson spent decades in private and public sector, serving on several state environmental regulatory boards, and advocating for natural resource protection, restoration and development.

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