This western Colorado big-sky country has long been ranchland. In recent years it’s become home to urban refugees and retirees. Now, it’s the target of energy companies in search of what is believed to be one of the nation’s richest reserves of natural gas as the Rockies become central to the country’s energy future.
Landowners have complained that the increased activity has wreaked havoc on the rural area: New roads have scarred the landscape; equipment and traffic has created noise and pollution; wildlife has been scared away; massive compressor stations have been built to keep the wells pumping. They fear the drilling could damage or decrease their well water, and the industrial activity will harm their property values.
As the landscape is transformed by the gas industry, local officials are left with little control, with the state claiming authority over the industry. But a recent state Supreme Court ruling suggests that the county may have more authority than was ever believed.
As America’s energy appetite grows and its natural gas supplies dwindle, the Rockies hold an ever-growing importance in the nation’s energy strategy. Experts say the region may hold a quarter of the nation’s gas reserves.