Drilling back at historic highs

The Great Recession appears to be over for at least one segment of the economy. In spite of increased regulation and an Obama White House, oil and gas drilling has rebounded to historic highs. However, the action may be moving out of the Four Corners as local reserves mature and attention turns to development of oil and shale.

Headwaters Economics, an independent research group, released the findings this week. The group noted that drilling bottomed out late in 2008 along with nearly every other segment of the U.S. economy. However, fears of a Democrat in the White House and increased regulations were apparently unwarranted. National drilling is nearly back to its pre-Recession high with 1,860 rigs actively drilling as of last Friday.

“Oil and natural gas drilling activity has made a strong recovery since reaching a recession-induced low in late 2008,” said Julia Haggerty, the report’s author. “Market prices and advancements in drilling technology account for most of the increases in drilling activity.”

New development in the Rocky Mountain region has served as a principle driver of this bounce. Colorado, Montana, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming are all witnessing oil and gas rushes. In the case of Colorado, the state’s new regulations are doing little to dissuade development, as industry claimed they would.

“When it comes to land-based oil and natural gas drilling in the United States, there is little evidence that state and federal regulations are hampering industry’s ability to respond to market signals,” Haggerty said.

However, natural gas is no longer the focus of the boom as it was prior to 2008. The report notes that oil rigs now account for more than 50 percent of all active rigs, well up from 15 percent during the period of 2004-08. Haggerty said that the connection is obvious – the price of oil tripled between 2009-11 and the price of natural gas has yet to recover.

Drilling may be on the wane in the Durango area, according to Headwaters Economics. The report notes that natural reserves are starting to play out in the San Juan Basin of Southwest Colorado and Northern New Mexico. As a result, rigs are pulling up roots and moving to untapped pastures.

“Known plays such as coalbed methane in the San Juan Basin have matured and newer plays like natural gas fields in the Piceance Basin have emerged,” the report reads. “Meanwhile, since the recession, oil has been the key factor leading the return of rigs.”


Danielson scores Tour de France slot

A cyclist who got his start at Fort Lewis College and still calls Durango home is off to the big show. After impressive showings in the Tour of California and the Tour de Suisse, Tom Danielson has been tapped for Garmin-Cervélo’s Tour de France team. The 33-year-old will line up at the Tour Prologue in Passage du Gois on July 2.

It’s been a long road to the Tour for Danielson. A Fort Lewis College standout, he earned numerous early titles, including several Mt. Washington Hill Climb victories and a win in the Tour de Georgia. However, the rider once considered the next Lance Armstrong has battled illness and mental blocks in recent years and not been able to put it together in Europe.

But 2011 may be Danielson’s year. Danielson took third in the Tour of California and a coveted top 10 in the Tour of Switzerland. Nonetheless, he is remaining humble about his first ride in the Tour.

“I honestly don’t know what it means to me,” he told theDenver Post. “I’m a pro. I focused a lot on being at a high level. I just want to continue doing my job and reach the highest level possible … On the last day of the Tour, I’ll tell you what it means to me.”

Garmin-Cervélo CEO Jonathan Vaughters has high hopes for Danielson’s inaugural Tour de France. “We seem to produce a surprise in the Tour de France every year,” he told thePost. “I hope this year that’s Danielson.”

Durango will likely reap some air time in the coming race, even though Danielson is currently living in Boulder. If it’s anything like the Tour of California, commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin are sure to be following the progress of “Tommy Danielson, of Durango, Colo.”


Animas River protection effort begins

The upper Animas River could be in for a little relief. The new River Protection Workgroup holds its first meeting June 23 with the aim of “protecting values” on the Animas River upstream of Baker’s Bridge. The meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. at Silverton’s Kendall Mountain Recreation Center.  

The work group will mimic the efforts of the Hermosa Creek Work Group, which reached a successful consensus on protecting that drainage and helped map the current wilderness proposal.

First, members of the new process will review basic water and land protection tools for the Animas River. Then, Animas River values – both human and natural – will be discussed at length. Next, the group will look to the future and decide if additional protections are needed.

Everyone is invited to participate in the process which will conclude late in the spring of 2012 after a dozen meetings. More information is available by visiting http://ocs.fortlewis.edu/riverprotection/ or by emailing water@frontier.net.  


Humane Society seeks foster homes

Breeding season is upon La Plata County. The La Plata County Humane Society is swimming in kittens and puppies and in need of additional foster homes. Close to 100 animals are out in foster homes already, but newborns are flooding into the shelter every day.

“Whether you want something easy, like a momma cat and her kittens, or something more intense like bottle-feeding kittens or puppies, we need it all,” said Becca Gilmore, LPCHS Foster Home Coordinator.

Foster-homes are an integral part of the shelter and provide crucial overflow space. All animals are medically evaluated before being fostered out and LPCHS provides foster-homes with food, any necessary supplies and appropriate training. The animals don’t need much, just a quiet, comfortable place to grow.

To participate, contact Gilmore at 259-2847 or foster@lpchumanesociety.org or stop by the La Plata County Humane Society.

– Will Sands


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