Garfield urges quick federal approval of gas export site

Garfield County commissioners are calling for prompt federal approval of a proposed Oregon liquefied natural gas export facility that could serve as an outlet for natural gas produced in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin.

In a letter the commissioners this week agreed to send to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, they also called on the agency to consider the economic benefits to western Colorado of the proposed Jordan Cove project in Coos Bay.

“We believe the Jordan Cove Project is essential to ensure that businesses in western Colorado have the opportunity to access overseas markets and enjoy the economic benefits of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exports,” they say in the letter. “This project is the only proposed LNG export facility that would provide western Colorado businesses the opportunity to access overseas markets. We commend the Commission for its approvals and opportunities it already has given to eastern and Gulf Coast states to access overseas markets. We ask the Commission to follow suit and provide Colorado the same opportunity.”

Garfield County’s position is in line with the “Piceance Basin to Pacific Rim” concept unveiled in a white paper written last fall by John Harpole, president of Mercator Energy in Littleton. The paper was commissioned by the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, and the Center for Unconventional Energy at Colorado Mesa University helped underwrite it.

That papers points to opportunities to sell locally produced gas in Asian markets for prices lower than customers there now pay. Piceance Basin producers would be able to take advantage of unused pipeline capacity to ship gas to the Pacific Northwest, and the overseas exports could help bring some stability to local drilling and production levels that currently are subject to big swings depending on domestic gas prices.

In their letter, Garfield commissioners encourage FERC, in the socioeconomic analysis section of its draft environmental impact statement, to not only refer to benefits of the project to Pacific economies, but to “also focus on the direct and critical stimulation of upstream production and economic benefits in the form of jobs and local tax revenue to communities in western Colorado.”

Garfield County has nearly 11,000 active oil and gas wells and is the leading natural-gas-producing county in Colorado. The commissioners note in their letter that oil and gas development accounted for 88 percent of tax revenues for the Rifle-based Grand River Hospital District last year, and make up 94 percent of tax revenues in the case of Garfield County School District 16, based in Parachute, and the De Beque Fire Protection District.


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