Chambers: Oil, gas jobs high priority

RIFLE — Single mother Maria Vazquez thought she had left the slow economy behind when she left Florida for western Colorado and its energy boom.

The former teacher started taking process-technology classes at Colorado Mountain College in Rifle in hopes of getting work related to natural gas development. Then she started hearing about companies cutting back on drilling.

“The recession caught up with Colorado, and I thought it was one of the places that was safe from recession,” she said.

Vazquez on Thursday morning attended a Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce presentation at which a Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce representative talked about the Legislature’s ongoing review of new rules governing oil and gas development.

Both chambers support a bill that would rein in how much say the rules would give the Colorado Division of Wildlife regarding energy development. Ryan Longman, the Grand Junction chamber’s government affairs manager, said that with the economic downturn, the state should be trying to save existing oil and gas jobs rather than implementing rules that are helping cause companies to cut back operations in Colorado.

Longman believes lawmakers have yet to carefully look at the rules the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission recently passed.

“It’s very important for us to be on the front lines, talking to our legislators and trying to get them to stick to the idea of not just rubber-stamping the rules and sending them right on through,” he said.

Rifle chamber board chairwoman Shari Neuroth, who owns a real estate company, is glad her chamber is becoming involved in the energy rules debate. She fears the industry slowdown could help lead to empty homes and foreclosures.

“Overregulation is never good for any industry,” she said.

Mary Huffine, who also works in real estate in Rifle, said energy development has had positive economic benefits, including to the real estate market. But it has hampered other industries, such as hunting, fishing and agriculture, she said.

She thinks various interests had plenty of opportunity last year to weigh in on the state’s oil and gas rule-making.

“I think they ought to go forward with it,” she said.

Vazquez said she’s keeping a positive attitude about the industry’s future in western Colorado.

“I’m not concerned about much at this point because I think it’s going to stabilize. The energy situation in general is going to stabilize,” she said.


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