Natural gas predicted as political flashpoint

Efforts by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association to reframe drilling issues are bearing some fruit, the head of an industry association said.

Natural gas, however, is likely to remain a legislative flash point, Tisha Conoly Schuller, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, told The Daily Sentinel editorial board on Thursday.

There will be “highly polarized discussions” about the drilling industry driven mostly by Front Range interests, Schuller said, but the results could be felt statewide and make it more difficult for operators on the Western Slope.

“It’s going to affect the whole state,” Schuller said.

To blunt the effects of sharp debate, the association and the industry are working to change the way they approach issues, Schuller said.

“We’re engaging in conversations that historically we might have shunned,” Schuller said.

She and David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, are working to emphasize responsible drilling and the dependence of regional and national economies on natural gas to make their point, Schuller said.

That effort has yet to gain a foothold in the North Fork Valley, where drilling is viewed as a threat to the local agricultural industry, Ludlam said, but it remains a goal of the association.

Natural gas appears to have the backing of President Barack Obama, based on the comments of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, who in an appearance this week in Boulder appears ready to accept natural gas as a necessary part of the nation’s energy portfolio, Schuller said.

That’s largely because of the benefits of using natural gas instead of coal, resulting in reduced carbon-dioxide emissions.

The use of natural gas is primarily responsible for reducing carbon dioxide to levels below those of 1992, when the U.S. economy was significantly smaller than it is today, she said.


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Want to take any bets on the local farmer’s support for unlimited local drilling once they figure out that the resultant air quality challenges also reduce yields on fruit crops?

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