Environmentalists, Oil and Gas All-in-One

What is interesting about environmental news these days is how it intertwines with energy development. With over 20,000 new oil and gas wells expected to be drilled in Western Colorado alone in the next decade or two, environmentalists have apparently drawn a line in the sand. In The Wilderness Society’s new “Too Wild To Drill” report, it highlighted how wildlands across Colorado are being impacted by oil and gas development. Of 17 special places mentioned in the report, five are in Colorado, the most of any western state.

As explained by Suzanne Jones of the Wilderness Society:

Colorado is facing unprecedented threats to and demands on our public lands. If drilling continues at the pace set by the Bush Administration, Colorado’s landscape will be forever disfigured. Our wide-open vistas, watersheds, and much-loved backcountry will be marred by machinery, pollution, and the long-lasting negative impacts to our quality of life.

In another example, a recent Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease sale of nearly 119,000 acres in western Colorado was countered with environmental groups rejoicing about how certain parcels along scenic waterways were removed from the list of federal lands leased for drilling.

Yet some of the environmental successes have been made by the oil and gas industry. In a recent Rocky Mountain News article, state regulators called EnCana Oil  an “environmental hero” for protecting sage grouse habitats and limiting its drilling impact on the Western Slope.

Nothing is more environmentally confusing than the proposed oil shale development near the Rio Blanco and Garfield county lines. The Interior Department declared the experimental oil shale projects in western Colorado would have minimal environmental impacts despite comments from state and federal agencies and environmentalists that threats to air and water were understated or not adequately analyzed.

Another environmental/oil and gas debate is the proposed plan to drill atop the Roan Plateau located near Rifle. Even the local mayors are supportive of the environmental argument that drilling should not occur in such a pristine area.

With “environment” and “oil and gas” so inter-related these days, it is hard to remember what environmental deliberations were about just a few years ago in the West.