Proliferation of wells threatens scenic values, recreation industry (not to mention the land, its inhabitants, and our water supply!)
By Nancy Lofholm, The Denver Post
MOAB, Utah (AP) – A different kind of spire is jutting into the iconic red rock vistas of Moab.
It is the scaffolding of drilling rigs, and it heralds a new chapter in Moab’s long history of energy extraction. Moab may have been comfortable with the uranium industry that put it on the map in another century. But having an oil patch amid this area’s popular national parks and renowned recreational backcountry is jarring to some residents.
Gas and oil wells have been drilled piecemeal around here for decades. But today’s wells represent a kind of backcountry industrialization that this area hasn’t dealt with before.
The area where the drilling is taking place attracts an estimated 500,000 backcountry recreationists a year. Those visitors are now a bedrock of Moab’s economy. Seventy percent of jobs in Grand County derive from tourism, and recreation accounts for three times more of the public lands revenue that brings in about $200 million to Moab each year. Extractive industries account for the rest.
On the other side of the economic impact pie, the gas and oil wells that currently are producing add about $2.6 million to Grand County coffers annually. And gas and oil money that flows back to the county from the state topped $1 million last year. The gas and oil reserves still in the ground under the red rock country point to even more future economic windfall. Grand County has an estimated 145 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 32.5 million barrels of oil.