Colorado’s Discovery of Massive Oil and Gas Reserves: A Case for Local Energy and Environment Policy

In June 2016, the U.S. Geological Survey discovered that Colorado has 40 times more technically recoverable natural gas resources than previously estimated, located in the Piceance Basin. Yet these vast resources are not reflected in recent federal land management plans for the region that could be in effect for over a decade. The federal government owns over 640 million acres and 700 million acres in mineral rights below the surface. As just a small piece of the federal estate, the Mancos Shale discovery in the Piceance Basin represents tremendous economic potential, but also demonstrates the inadequacies of federal land ownership and policies. Local land-use issues, and undoubtedly highly contentious ones, should not need to wait for the U.S. Congress or a federal agency to weigh multiple land-use choices. A Washington-centric approach to management stifles creative, collaborative solutions to competing interests that could be resolved at local, state, or regional levels without the added baggage of national political battles and federal regulatory processes. While states and local communities may not always make perfect decisions, the best environmental policies are site and situation specific and emanate from liberty.

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