Rifle Shots: A look at a new old west

Living in Rifle (sometimes referred as “West Texas”) during the current energy boom is a lot like living in the towns of Deadwood or Kansas City during the pioneer days. Scenes of the “Wild West” play out here every day: a gravel pit war breaks out between Rifle and Garfield County; there is a showdown on main street over parking; the natives are going on the warpath over property rights vs. drilling; and immigrants are building the area’s infrastructure.

With this kind of commotion going on all the time, probably the locals are getting a little de-sensitized about the myriad of issues surrounding a boom town like Rifle. With oil and gas industry fueling the local economy after a decade-long bust when Exxon and others pulled out of the oil shale mining, sometimes it’s hard to get too excited about all the impacts from drilling.

See, we’ve been through this a lot. Rifle is located in a geological area that includes uranium, coal, gold, soda, oil shale, natural gas, vanadium…. well, you get the picture. We’ve been poked, punctured, drilled, mined, sacked, and pillaged many times before.

Our streams have been polluted, wildlife poached, timber cut, and ranchland sold off for development for nearly 100 years. Hell, we even boast having our own atomic bomb blasted in our backyard-The Rulison Project-in hopes of getting more gas out of the ground. Oops! The government found out atomic bombs release radioactivity into the gas fields. But, no matter, 25 years have gone by now and that’s long enough to wait to drill there again.

This is the New Frontier when it comes to energy production, especially with oil at $75 a barrel. Anything goes during Chief Halliburton’s administration. All regulations to protect the environment, roadless areas, forest plans, watersheds, etc. are pretty much left in the dust. They just get in the way. Hey, there were no rules to winning the West from the Indians and buffalos. It’s for the US’s benefit, right? And isn’t it better to be addicted to America’s oil than Saudi Arabia’s?

Anyway, now that this energy boom is seeping into more populated areas than Rifle, the media is taking more notice and citizens are taking action into their hands. But these natives have slingshots compared to the big guns in Washington DC.

Plus, here in Rifle, we’re getting pretty used to being up to our ass in rattlesnakes.


To read more about oil and gas impacts in the Rifle area:

http://www.postindependent.com/article/20060624/COLUMNISTS/106240024&SearchID=73250282099357 health

http://www.postindependent.com/article/20060604/VALLEYNEWS/60603006&SearchID=73250282158828 housing prices

http://www.postindependent.com/article/20060513/VALLEYNEWS/105130028&SearchID=73250282242736 water shed protections

http://www.postindependent.com/article/20060601/VALLEYNEWS/106010026&SearchID=73250282338785 BLM regulations

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN_15_4834572,00.html
roadless areas

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Leslie Robinson

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