Despite Gardner’s gloomy forecast, cleaner gas extraction picking up

One of the most strident critics of last spring’s oil and gas drilling regulations was state Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, who fought to the bitter end to kill or at least neuter the new regulations. He claimed that in pushing through the regs, Gov. Bill Ritter was “killing the goose that laid the golden egg” in Colorado and driving away jobs. Supporters of new regulations disagreed. Now Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. has effectively weighed in by announcing its plans to erect new rigs and drill hundreds of new wells in the state’s Fourth District– that is, across the exact counties where Gardner is stumping to replace Democrat U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey in Washington.

Yuma Rep. Cory Gardner
Yuma Rep. Cory Gardner

Last spring, as the new regulations were being proposed, Gardner claimed every chance he got that Ritter and the Democratic state legislature were embarking on a myopic pro-green policy that made for bad economics, a policy he was sure would stunt natural gas deveolpment, which was key in his northeast stomping ground.

Since then evidence has been mounting that the regulations– which give greater weight to air and water quality, public health and wildlife habitat — have not had nearly as much to do with the state’s recent natural gas slowdown as has the ongoing global recession.

According to the Denver Post, officials for Anadarko at least don’t see the regs as a serious hindrance. The company announced on a conference call Tuesday that this year it intends to put in up to eight new drilling rigs and to drill 450 new wells in northeastern Colorado’s Wattenberg Field.

The Post also reported Wednesday that the company plans to spend up to $2.3 billion on up to 2,750 wells by 2015 in the Wattenberg, which includes Weld, Adams, Boulder, Broomfield and Larimer counties, a good chunk of the Fourth Congressional District.

Indeed, it now looks as if big new oil and gas discoveries and a gradually improving market – coupled with increased pipeline capacity – may make the drilling regs debate meaningless.

Except perhaps on the stump. Until very recently, candidate Gardner has been continuing to contend that “big government” over-regulation will be the death of Colorado’s oil and gas industry.

It’s a position Gardner may be loath to part with, partly perhaps, because it has been a main pillar of his politics for a long time.

Gardner signed the so-called Petroleum Pledge back in 2008 when he helped form the Western Skies Coalitions, a 501(c)4 issues group dedicated to retaking the state Senate while singing the praises of the Old Energy Economy.

On his 2010 campaign website, though, Gardner seems to want it both ways, decrying the notion that he’s anything but a staunch advocate for the key components of Ritter’s New Energy Economy: “Representative Gardner is a leading conservative in the state House, a strong voice for renewable energy and Colorado’s clean-burning natural gas.”

The Representative Gardner described at the site is no doubt happy to learn that gas rigs will soon be springing up in between windmills in CD4 and operating under slightly tighter environmental guidelines than they did during the last natural gas boom.

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