Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content TOWN HALL: Trust, verify, then drill Banning Lewis Ranch (poll)

WAYNE LAUGESEN Updated: December 2, 2011 at 12:00 am

Economies around the globe are in crisis. The last thing we need are excessive impediments to plentiful supplies of oil and natural gas. Americans must explore, drill and extract energy from our soil. We can no longer afford to export this burden while increasing our dependence on imported fuels. Even advocates of alternative fuels should support oil and gas production, as we will never have the means to advance new energy technologies if traditional fuels become too scarce to grow and maintain healthy economies. Today, one cannot create and transport a windmill — or solar panels — without easy and affordable access to gasoline or diesel. Those semis that traverse I-25, each hauling one windmill blade from Vestas Wind Systems in Pueblo, aren’t powered by the wind and the sun. They chug traditional fuels.

The more oil and gas production that can take place in Colorado, the better. We agree with the following statement, made to the Colorado Springs City Council on Wednesday:

“As one of the state’s largest economic drivers, steady resurgence of the oil and gas industry is the foundation of Colorado’s economic recovery. The industry is interested in working with the city to ensure resource development is balanced with environmental protections and community values.” — Andrew Casper, regulatory counsel for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Texas-based Ultra, an oil company and member of the association, wants to drill for oil and gas just east of Colorado Springs on Banning Lewis Ranch — a massive area that has not met residential development expectations. Ultra wants three vertical wells for fracking operations, in which hydraulic fracturing is used to extract rock and fluid that aid in exploration for crude and natural gas.

Casper’s talk of oil and economic recovery came before the council voted 8-0 (Councilman Bernie Herpin was absent) in favor of a six-month moratorium on exploration. Casper argued against the moratorium. Councilman Merv Bennett argued for it:

“I think it’s absolutely irresponsible for us not to look at our future and identify what the potential is for damage to us — or the good things that could come out of this if it’s done right,” Bennett said.

Just as we agree with Casper, we agree with Bennett. Casper is correct in stressing the economic importance of exploration, and equally correct in saying it must be done with respect for the environment and community values. A six-month timeout, to ensure protections, seems reasonable. Endeavors that pose far less harm are sometimes put through regulatory procedures that take more than six months. Just talk to anyone who has endured the bureaucratic quagmire involved with obtaining a liquor license.

Was the City Council correct to impose a six-month moratorium on oil and gas exploration on Banning-Lewis Ranch? Vote in poll to the right. Must vote to see results.

During the six month timeout, the city will try to ensure safety of groundwater, soil and wildlife. They will make certain the drilling operations won’t harm roads and other transportation assets that belong to the public.

This is not a conflict that pits radical environmentalists against advocates of Sarah Palin’s “drill, baby, drill.” The moratorium was approved by members of the council whose politics are left of center and right of center. They voted a day after conservative Mayor Steve Bach — never to be confused as a tree hugger — issued a directive against accepting or processing applications “related to mining or extraction exploration or operations” for six months.

As Gov. John Hickenlooper told The Gazette’s editorial board last week, oil producers have self-interest incentives to avoid causing harm. Still, checks and balances serve to aid in their quests to do no harm.

We applaud the mayor and council for taking reasonable steps to protect the interests of Coloradans and their environment from premature drilling. At the same time, we urge them to work efficiently to facilitate responsible oil and gas exploration as quickly as possible. Protect us, while doing nothing to needlessly impede progress.

That's our view. What's yours? Please vote in the “Your View” poll to the upper right and initiate or join in a Facebook discussion below. Must-see-daily site: Complete Colorado

Friend editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen on Facebook, follow him on Twitter

Must-see-daily site: Complete Colorado

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