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The West's drilling surge

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Rockies Today

October 29 · Issue #25 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

Applications to drill on Western lands jump 300 percent
Applications for permits to drill on federal and Native American lands have increased by more than 300 percent over the past two years, with oilfields in New Mexico and Wyoming receiving most of the attention, S&P Global Platts reports.
Drilling on federal and Indian lands surges in 2019 Drilling on federal and Indian lands surges in 2019
New Mexico proved to be the biggest benefactor of increased federal and Indian land activity. The average rig count in the state increased by 11 year over year from 95 to 106, according to data by Baker Hughes. New Mexico received the highest disbursement in fiscal year 2019, and it is the greatest allocation received in the state’s history at $1.17 billion.
States received $2.44 billion in disbursements, and more than $1 billion was disbursed to American Indian tribes and individual Indian mineral owners.
Permit processing has increased significantly under the new presidential administration. The Department of the Interior said it has implemented processes to streamline the application and approval process. The time needed to complete a permit under the previous administration took an average of 257 days, while it now takes 108 days to complete the processing, according to the Department of the Interior.
Gas production on Indian and federal lands has slipped steadily over the past decade. In 2005, combined gas production on Indian lands averaged 0.9 Bcf/d. It dropped to 0.7 Bcf/d in 2009, and averaged only 0.66 Bcf/d from 2014 through 2016, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. While it used to average 1.8% of US production in 2005, it now represents about 1%.
Onshore oil and gas public leasing acreage has increased by 5,000 acres to 102,219 acres over the past two years, according to the most recent US Bureau of Land Management data.
Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah lead the nation for gas production on Indian lands.
More on federal minerals revenue:
Rising U.S. oil, gas output fuels 30% jump in federal minerals revenues — Interior
Wyoming waits for the next shoe to drop
In Wyoming, the hits keep coming, and today WyoFile reports on what energy-dependent communities and industry experts expect next.
Job loss and youth exodus: towns grapple with energy transition Job loss and youth exodus: towns grapple with energy transition
Bankruptcy, coal experts voice concerns, takeaways
Meanwhile…
Coal in U.S. West to drop 'significantly' — report
Spring Creek miners back to work, though sovereignty questions remain
Murray Energy files for bankruptcy as Trump's coal bailout efforts falter
A Colorado county sits astride two Wests
Speaking of the need for economic diversity, The Bill Lane Center for the American West’s Felicity Barringer examines Garfield County, Colorado’s tricky economic balance.
Astride two Wests, a Colorado county faces a tricky economic balance Astride two Wests, a Colorado county faces a tricky economic balance
SILT, Colorado — For those speeding by on Interstate 70, Silt is a hiccup of a town between Grand Junction and the Rocky Mountains. But its visions belie its size. Jeff Layman, the town’s administrator, believes Silt contains the seeds of a new economy. It could mean the end of the days when most of its three thousand residents drive an hour east to work in the recreational world of ski resorts —- places they can’t afford to live. Many others drive an hour west to work in the industrial world of oil and gas wells.
As Layman sees it, “We’re in the sweet spot” of Garfield County, a long stepladder of land with its eastern end near Aspen and its western end at the Utah border. About 60,000 people live there; the Colorado River and Interstate 70 are its twin arteries. Silt is one of about 10 communities clustered around major highways. New businesses are arriving in town: Skip’s Farm to Market, with its offerings of vegetables and fruits opened on Main Street a few months ago, getting the attention of young foodies. A marijuana dispensary sits across the street.
Solar panels in town generate 20.5 kilowatts of electricity and the town is investing $40,000 to install four electric vehicle chargers downtown. “We’re talking to a guy who is involved in new-age energy — wind turbines for residential apartments. He’s a Western Slope guy and looks at Silt as being less expensive for land, buildings and labor,” Layman said. He dreams the man will decide to bring 180 jobs to town. He expects the town will allow all-terrain vehicles to ride on the same streets as cars, which could bring more ATV riders to town to head for the stunning plateaus above it. A town park is being expanded to make it more of a Colorado River boating hub.
Silt is one of many rural small towns balanced precariously between the old western economy and an emerging economy whose shape is unclear, but which could become a hybrid of recreation jobs and some kind of 21st-century manufacturing or technology. As Don Albrecht, executive director of Utah State University’s Western Rural Development Center explained, “Rural communities that are thriving are starting to make a transition,” recognizing that traditional industries are fading away.
More on recreation jobs in the West:
Outdoor recreation economy is booming in the Mountain West, analysis finds
National Elk Refuge expected to reduce feeding
National Elk Refuge poised to change century-long feeding practices National Elk Refuge poised to change century-long feeding practices
More wildlife news:
Groups threaten lawsuit over grizzly deaths by trains
Three grizzly bears dead after run-ins with people in southwestern Montana
Can decade-old Owyhee Initiative model bring peace among adversaries to save Idaho salmon?
Salmon swim above the Grand Coulee Dam for first time in 80 years
A rainy day for residential solar in Idaho?
Rainy day for solar? Rainy day for solar?
More energy news:
US agency seeks public input on Keystone XL oil pipeline
NTSB report on Firestone explosion released
Frack quakes: Knowledge is weak as B.C. drilling grows
What else we're reading today
Wyoming sets out to document hate in the Equality State
Colorado's refugees can become trapped in chronic poverty, study finds
What Western states can learn from Native American wildfire management strategies
Legal playing field tilted against First Nations in resource development battles, says new report
Whistle-blower prompts DEQ to probe, bentonite mines, regulators
Bears Ears and Notre-Dame named to 2020 World Monuments Watch
National groups to spend $3M on campaign to legalize marijuana in Montana
Americans’ trust of local news is on the brink
Rockies Today is edited by Matthew Frank, Fellow in Regional Journalism at the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.
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O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, 59812