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Colorado Governor Says NatGas Key to State's Energy Strategy

Natural gas is a critical part of Colorado's "all of the above" energy strategy, and it is encouraging its increased development, including the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), in a safe and responsible way that can be managed between government and industry, said Gov. John Hickenlooper as part of a Western Governors' Association (WGA) three-part energy report.

Reiterating a theme he has been emphasizing (see Shale Daily, April 3), Hickenlooper's contention is that the widely available domestic fuel source being unlocked by fracking at various shale gas formations around the nation is good for his state's economy and the environment, and this translates into national benefits as well.

"Colorado's goal is to promote our energy resources for the benefit of the state and its citizens, while staying accountable for the highest ethical and environmental standards," Hickenlooper wrote as one of more than a dozen governors' energy perspectives published as essays by WGA to support its newly released energy "vision."

Hickenlooper cited the job-creating benefits for Colorado, which attributes 43,000 direct jobs and another 63,000 indirect ones to oil/gas operations, and noted the $1.2 billion in royalties paid to Colorado's mineral rights owners in a single year recently. He acknowledged, however, that not everyone agrees that more development and fracking can be accomplished safely.

The economic benefits of natural gas continue to growth, Hickenlooper said, citing the development of shale and tight gas in areas such as Colorado's Niobrara formation and a recent study forecasting that shale energy production will support 50% more jobs in Colorado by 2020 compared to 2011. "Numerous studies suggest that shale's impact on the economy will continue to grow into the future."

Hickenlooper said that while fracking has raised concerns related to impacts on the state's water resources, in 2010 the 13,900 acre-feet of water used for fracking represented less than one-tenth of 1% (0.l0%) of the total water used in the state. By 2015, the amount could rise sightly above 0.10%, but it will still be relatively minimal, he said.

"Emerging technologies are proving useful to reduce demands on water from natural gas development. For example, the use of water recycling for fracking is growing quickly in Colorado."

Hickenlooper used the platform provided by the WGA report to outline how his state can "maximize advantages realized through the use of natural gas resources," while focusing on public health and environmental protections. "The state is creating policies that remove barriers to the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel and is using our own fleet to set an example for the public," he said.

The governor also characterized the state's 2010 Clean Air/Clean Jobs Act as a major driver for conversions to natural gas. The act, itself, is responsible for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reductions of 28%.

While noting that the national and statewide debate on fracking and the safe expansion of oil/gas drilling have increased in intensity, Colorado has responded with tough chemical disclosure requirements, pre- and post-drilling water testing requirements and new setback requirements as oil/gas development edges into urban and suburban settings.

"Finally, in partnership with local universities, the state is launching a comprehensive study of the impacts of natural gas drilling on air quality and public health," Hickenlooper said. "This comes after several steps in recent years to reduce the pollutants that originate at oil/gas facilities."

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