The Rocky Mountains are the locus of a virtual beehive of industry activity these days.
In fact, this is the fastest growing producing region in the United States, according to Randy Ray, president of Julander Energy. It accounts for about a third of domestic natural gas production.
“This is significant, because natural gas is a clean energy fuel and the country is now concerned about burning clean fuel,” Ray said. “The Rockies can provide a huge amount of that.”
A comment from Peter Dea, president and CEO at Cirque Resources, underscored the importance of this supply.
“In January 2002 we had 700 U.S. rigs drilling for natural gas,” Dea said. “Now that’s doubled to 1,400, yet we’ve seen a 5 percent decline in U.S. gas production.
“This says we need to keep drilling a lot of wells to even try to stay flat,” Dea added.
Instead of encouraging industry’s all-out effort to produce this invaluable commodity in the Rockies, however, various groups and agencies are seemingly throwing up roadblocks aplenty.
For instance, drilling is prohibited for much of the year in numerous areas.
“There are so many federal lands (under the aegis of the BLM) in the Rockies,” said Ray, who noted the largest accumulation of these lands is in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. “Basically you can only operate July to November.
“There are restrictions for raptors, sage grouse, prairie dogs, and in winter it’s migratory paths for large game,” Ray said. “Every area varies, but on average we’re restricted to about a third of the year for drilling -- we don’t have these restrictions on fee lands.
“We’re very conscious of protecting the environment,” Ray said, “but some people don’t want any activity at all, so it’s always a challenge there.”
Dea voiced his take on the issue.
“The Rockies still suffer from over-regulation from federal agencies,” Dea said, “especially the BLM, which is a pretty dysfunctional organization. There’s poor communication from Washington, where the BLM people seem to appreciate the need for our industry, versus the field personnel who have too much autonomous power and are very inefficient in many regards.
“Some field officers are doing a good job and others a lousy job in issuing permits in a timely manner,” Dea noted. “It’s a major problem in some field offices, which are not doing their fiduciary duty to allow clean burning natural gas to be provided to the consumers of America in a timely fashion.
“It’s an ongoing problem that never seems to get much better,” Dea said. “We fight a lot of rhetoric.”