Carbon County has certainly had its share of economic hardship over the years. Sometimes it's the little things, sometimes it's big. In the early years of the county it was the railroad or mines making decisions to operate or not to operate. Even today, with an expanded community and a more diverse infrastructure of business, a mine closure, no matter what the reasons, sends shock waves through the community.
In recent years the gas industry has emerged as a large part of our economy. While it doesn't supply the steady number of jobs that the coal mines do, it does give the area a shot in the arm by bringing in and hiring local people to set up studies, construct pads and drill wells. Once in production, wells do not provide a lot of boots on the ground, but there are a few of those regular on-going jobs connected to their operations. More importantly to the county though producing wells provide needed money to the county government through royalties and mineral lease paybacks. Even though Carbon gets only a small percentage of the total money generated, it still can amount to a lot of funding, even over only a few months when wells are producing.
That is why when our own federal government does things to discourage production that could not only provide funds to local government for important operations, but institutes unmoving policies that negatively affect the price of energy nationally, it is perplexing.
Now I am not a scientist and I am certainly no expert on energy. As a journalist I am in the position to know a little about a lot of things, but not very much about any particular thing, so maybe my opinion is not very well balanced, but it seems when the Bureau of Land Management stopped drilling operations after Nov. 1 in the Nine Mile Canyon area they were following policy, but not common sense.
In reality the date of the stoppage was stated in the original environmental assessment and true BBC did know for a long time that would be the cut off date. But also in reality, BBC had been having discussions with the BLM about an extension, in what they felt was good faith. Despite that the decision was made abruptly and absolutely.
This whole incident reminds me of the complaints I hear from off roaders who also have had conversations going on with the BLM about routes and road closures, and the next thing they now one of the roads under discussion is suddenly shut down. Or what about ranchers who have problems settling problems with the agency on grazing rights or other issues. The pattern of behavior the the BLM sometimes exhibits seems contrary to anyone being able to take what they say in "good faith."
Right now the American public is facing a shortage of energy this winter that could be unprecedented. Natural gas could zoom up to $10 per million cubic feet, and any possible domestic supplies that are available or could be available ought to be pursued. While Barrett only projected that if they could continue drilling three wells would be in production by this winter, a small amount of extra in-demand product on the market can affect prices nationwide.
And let's not forget that a small percentage of that higher price that individuals and industry pay for gas comes back to Carbon County in the form of money for local infrastructure operations, and certainly in a few jobs as well.
The BLM seems to have very logical reasons for shutting down the operations on time, but to me there seem to be more commanding reasons to let it continue. Wet weather and a couple of incidents where trucks slid off the road in Nine Mile Canyon don't seem strong enough to shut down such an important operation. With that kind of reasoning Highway 6 should be shut down all winter.
As for wildlife and the effect of the drilling of them as they move into winter range early, I can't comment on mule deer because I am not expert on that. Once again it seem however, it come down to what is more important, people or wildlife. I understand the charge that the BLM and the Division of Wildlife Resources have when it comes to protecting biological resources, but it seems to me at this important energy intersection in our country's history, the well being of our economy should get the green light.
Certainly, each decision like this one should be made on a case by case basis, because circumstances are different from place to place. And just as certainly the mighty dollar isn't everything either. But for a national economy that seems to be taking one step forward and two steps back, and a local one that isn't even able to raise its leg to stumble, the decision on this matter should have been very different.