Tribune Opinion: Weld County: The new Middle East?
September 25, 2012
Is Weld County becoming a little Saudi Arabia?
That was a question someone in our newsroom posed the other day, and although it seemed a bit outrageous, it really is a relevant subject to contemplate.
Horizontal drilling technology has allowed oil and gas companies to successfully extract reserves that were previously difficult to tap. That appears to be the case with the Codell formation in the Wattenberg Field.
This isn't a newly discovered formation. In fact, it's been drilled for years vertically. But there is talk now from industry experts that horizontal drilling may be able to tap even more of the Codell, possibly prompting another rush for black gold like we've seen with the Niobrara formation.
Right now, horizontal drilling in the Codell is just in the exploratory phase. But if initial predictions are correct, this could be another high-producing formation.
We'd need a working crystal ball to be able to project what this exploration of the Codell will mean for Weld County. But we do know if it turns out to be as lucrative and well-producing at the Niobrara, it will affect this county in a big way.
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We can't stress enough that while oil and gas development is incredibly good for Weld County in many ways — job creation, tax revenues, stimulating the economy — the impacts of this industry must be monitored and mitigated constantly.
In other areas of the country that have been hit with oil and gas booms, housing prices have skyrocketed as the available inventory is gobbled up by workers. Housing shortages are also an issue and have created astronomical rental prices in some areas.
School districts in some oil and gas rich areas have had a sudden influx of students. While they may also collect additional tax revenues, it sometimes is not enough to offset the additional students.
There are other significant impacts, such as wear and tear on roads, the demand for clean water used in hydraulic fracturing, the noise and pollution caused by oil and gas activity, the affects of drilling on the environment and wildlife — the list is long.
We implore our local government officials to use as many resources as they can to plan to this mini industrial revolution in our county and do what they can now to try to address the bad, as well as the good, impacts of this industry.
If managed properly, the influx of oil and gas development in this county could be incredibly positive. If mismanaged, or at worse ignored, it could be incredibly negative for many residents and businesses.
We hope county and city officials throughout Weld are having discussions about how to plan for this potential boom. Right now it's happening fairly slowly, but if test wells in the Codell produce as predicted, it could ramp up quickly.
Weld may never be a little Saudi Arabia, but the potential for oil and gas to dominate our economy is real.
Obviously, Weld County is poised to play an important role in the development of domestic energy on many fronts. We just need to take the role seriously and approach it wisely.