Donald Trump will save us, Colorado oil and gas advocates say

Colorado's governor joins federal policymakers in sidelining some oil and gas leases in a national forest.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Updated Nov. 18, 2016 at 10:29 AM
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DENVER, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- A late-term decision from the Obama administration to sideline some Colorado oil and gas reserves drew fire from industry circles anticipating an about-face.

"The Obama administration has hijacked federal agencies tasked by law to facilitate responsible energy development instead to do the bidding of radical environmentalists and shut down production," Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement.

Bishop was responding to a decision by Colorado's government and the federal Interior Department to resolves issues related to oil and gas leases from 1995 to 2012 for the state's White River National Forest. The department's Bureau of Land Management canceled 25 leases that it said account for less than one half of 1 percent of the active leases in the state of Colorado.

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced the decision alongside Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and BLM Director Neil Kornze, saying it was a good compromise that protected wide-ranging state interests.

"Today is yet another example of the good we do in Colorado when we get out of corners, and meet in the center," the governor said in a statement.

Oil from Colorado accounts for about one out of every 50 barrels produced in the United States. The governor's office reported that spending in the oil and gas sector declined and put some pressure on tax revenue growth, though the overall economy is expected to remain in expansion.

Crude oil prices have recovered from steep losses earlier in the year and the budget outlook from Hickenlooper said the deep contraction that started last year may have bottomed out already this year. Nevertheless, oil and gas industry activity in the state is expected to be subdued.

David Ludlam, the executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said the cancellation of 25 of the 65 leases under review was a last-ditch punitive shot across the bow from outgoing President Barack Obama.

"The outcome of this month's election broadens the range of possible responses our industry may have in relation to this unprecedented breach of contract," he said in a statement emailed to UPI.

President-elect Donald Trump, in a statement on his potential energy policies, said the United States would become energy independent under his leadership. While the outline puts a clear focus on non-renewable resources, the president-elect said the environment would still get attention.

From the campaign trail, however, he offered some flexibility, saying some energy policy decisions would remain in state hands. Colorado was the center of a dispute over activities related to hydraulic fracturing. Two ballot measures designed to limit oil and natural gas drilling failed because supporters lacked enough valid signatures.

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