Governor touts Ruby Pipeline as key to economic recovery

Gov. Bill Ritter wanted to pledge allegiance to the natural gas industry Saturday before Club 20 in Grand Junction, but he couldn’t do it in person.

Ritter’s plane was grounded as he was taxiing toward takeoff from Centennial Airport south of Denver on his way to speak Saturday at Club 20’s spring meeting in Grand Junction. A second plane was deemed unsafe to clear the Rockies during the heavy spring snowstorm, and no commercial airliner could have delivered him in time for the luncheon speech.

Ritter has been criticized for seeking new drilling rules that Republicans in the Legislature and industry officials have said are burdensome and threaten the industry’s recovery.

“We’ve become a national and worldwide leader with our New Energy Economy,” Ritter planned to say in remarks
prepared for the organization that promotes and lobbies for the Western Slope. “And let me be clear, Colorado’s clean-burning natural gas sector is a key part of the New Energy Economy.”

Western Colorado’s energy economy sagged as a result of the national economic downturn and “may recover a bit faster” than the rest of the country as it climbs out of the national recession, Ritter said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Sentinel.

Key to local economic recovery is completion of the Ruby Pipeline, which will carry Piceance Basin natural gas from Opal, Wyo., to markets in the Pacific Northwest and West Coast.

Gas from the Piceance Basin and elsewhere in the region garners a lower price because of the lack of pipeline capacity to move it to lucrative markets in more populous regions of the country.

Ritter said he has written to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, asking that it approve the Ruby Pipeline.

“I’m optimistic about the future of the energy industry, the future of the Western Slope and the future of Colorado,” Ritter said in his planned remarks.

The national economy likely will show signs of recovery by the first quarter of 2010 or even the last quarter of this year, he said.

His administration has begun discussing using the coal-fired Cameo power plant in De Beque Canyon as a 1 megawatt coal and concentrated solar plant. Such a plant could produce four times the electricity generated by wind farms built on the eastern plains, he said in the interview.

There can be clean coal from facilities that combine sources such as solar and coal, he said.

“Renewable energy is only part of our portfolio,” he said. “I don’t discount that nuclear may be part” of the Colorado energy economy.

The inability to decide how to deal with spent rods from nuclear plants has inhibited the build-out of nuclear power, he said. Plants, however, have been built around the world and can be safely built and operated in the United States, he said.

In his speech, Ritter noted the Western Slope will see funding and tax relief from the $7 billion marked for Colorado in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Grand Junction Regional Airport will see part of the $100 million anticipated for highway, transit and airport projects, and there will be $4 million for weatherization, Ritter said.

The act includes $2 million for work force development, youth and summer jobs programs and job-training and retraining programs on the Western Slope. It includes $11.5 million for higher-education institutions on the Western Slope.

The FASTER transportation bill he signed includes money for repairs of 20 structurally deficient bridges on the Western Slope.


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