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Billboards and natural-gas drilling

Brief by Central Staff

Energy – January 2009 – Colorado Central Magazine

For the past couple of years, natural-gas drilling has increased significantly on Colorado’s Western Slope, especially in Garfield and Mesa counties. That trend may not continue, since prices have dropped and some companies have announced plans to cut back.

But for the moment, it’s a matter of contention with the drillers on one side, and various environmental groups who worry about the effects on Colorado’s air, water, and wildlife on the other.

Billboard on the east side of Salida.
Billboard on the east side of Salida.

And now the struggle has moved to billboards along the highways — with some of them miles and miles from the gas fields. One example appeared recently on U.S. 50 about a mile east of Salida, aimed at westbound travelers who, if they worked at it, could reach a drilling field in a few hours.

It’s part of an awareness campaign promoted by Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, who are concerned about the effects on wildlife; Physicians for Social Responsibility, worried about the health effects of chemicals used in drilling; Taxpayers for Common Sense, opposed to subsidies and tax breaks; and the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, a group along the Colorado River (known as the Grand until 1922) eastward from Grand Junction.

Their goal is to restrict drilling in sensitive areas, while regulating it more closely elsewhere, and raising Colorado’s severance taxes, which are the lowest in the Mountain West. Among other things, the billboards are intended to generate public support for Colorado’s new, and tighter, drilling rules which were proposed in December by the state oil and gas commission.