Natural gas supports healthy job growth in Colorado

Colorado is at the forefront of domestic natural gas development and, according to a recent study by IHS Global Insight, the state will benefit from this development with substantial and sustained job growth.

In Colorado, development of unconventional natural gas — including shale, tight sands and coal-bed methane — is projected to support more than 126,000 jobs by 2015. We will rank third nationally in jobs associated with this development. Thanks to effective oversight, Colorado can benefit from these well-paying jobs in the natural gas industry without compromising our environment.

The IHS study finds that Colorado will experience an annual job growth rate of 10 percent between 2010 and 2015. During that same time, the U.S. annual job growth rate is expected to be only 1.6 percent. These jobs generate $9.2 billion in labor income for Colorado by 2015, meaning more tax revenue for important state programs.

Specifically, the report shows that unconventional natural gas development in Colorado will contribute more than $2 billion in additional state and local tax revenue in 2015. There will be a cumulative total of about $50 billion for state and local governments from 2010 to 2035.

This means more money for our schools, emergency responders and infrastructure. As this report shows, natural gas will be a key component of Colorado’s economy for years to come.

Further, because Colorado consumes only about 40 percent of the natural gas we produce, our ability to export the balance to other states improves our balance of trade and puts money back into our local economy.

While the jobs supported by natural gas are vital to Colorado’s economy, so too is developing this abundant resource while protecting the Western Slope’s majestic environment.

To ensure safe and responsible development, Colorado has passed and put into place some of the most rigorous state-based oversight measures in the country.

During my time at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, we comprehensively updated our regulations to better protect our clean water, fresh air and diverse habitat. We also put more “boots on the ground” and created new opportunities for state and local collaboration.

These regulatory changes are already paying dividends. On the Western Slope, operators have reduced their use of waste pits by about 50 percent and have entered into wildlife mitigation plans protecting more than 750 square miles of our best habitat. 

Just this April, Colorado implemented a statewide mandate to disclose the additives used in hydraulic fracturing through the FracFocus.org website. Maintained by the Groundwater Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, which represent state governments, the FracFocus database discloses the additives used in fracking operations across the state and country on a searchable, well-by-well basis.

Through these initiatives, we have shown that states like Colorado can effectively oversee and work with industry to take advantage of this vital, homegrown energy resource.

Beyond job creation, our state enjoys the benefits of natural gas for cleaner power generation because it produces far less carbon and smog-forming nitrogen oxides than coal and emits virtually no sulfur dioxide, particulate matter or mercury.

According to the Energy Information Administration, natural gas heats approximately three out of every four Colorado homes and generates about one quarter of our electricity. Through that widespread use, our communities, in Grand Junction and beyond, are making progress toward cleaner air. 

Using more of Colorado’s own abundant resources is a smart choice to power our continued economic growth and success. And with a proven ability to oversee development, we in Colorado can enjoy the benefits of natural gas for our economy and our environment for years to come.

David Neslin is the former director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and a member of the law firm of Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP.


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