Oil and gas exploration with liquefied petroleum gas gel for hydraulic fracturing to reduce dependence on water

Advantages of liquid propane hydraulic fracturing via FracWire.com
Advantages of liquid propane hydraulic fracturing via FracWire.com

Conventional vs liquid propane hydraulic fracturing via FracWire.com
Conventional vs liquid propane hydraulic fracturing via FracWire.com

From The Greeley Tribune (Allison Dyer Bluemel):

Companies in drought areas have begun looking at liquefied petroleum gas gel for hydraulic fracturing as a way to reduce dependence on already-scarce water supplies.

Gas gel presents a potentially viable replacement to the millions of gallons of water used in the fracking process at each well site, said John McLennen, an associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Utah.

Also referred to as dry fracking, the process does not involve water. Instead, highly pressurized gas is injected directly into a formation to crack the rock.

“Conceptually it’s a great idea. People are definitely looking for water substitutes,” he said.

While the gel reduces the use of water dramatically and can benefit both producers and operators, many companies have not incorporated the gel into their operations due to the explosive and flammable nature of propane, McLennen said.

Under the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, companies have the autonomy to make individual technology related decisions, spokesperson Dan Haley said.

“There are a number of different techniques that Colorado companies use in oil and gas development,” said Doug Flanders, COGA director of policy and external affairs. “The most important factor when deciding which technique works best is the type of formation where you’re trying to extract oil or gas.”

McLennen said that the advantages to gel use have yet to be fully researched or substantiated. However, it has the potential to drastically reduce water use in areas were the resource is expensive because of drought or high transportation costs.

On average, each well requires between 1 million and 5 million gallons of water during fracking operations.

In Colorado, hydraulic fracturing operations account for approximately .08 percent of water consumed statewide, with companies working on ways to re-use and recycle water annually, Haley said.

The gel would help to solve the challenge of recycling flow-back water from wells, said Jason Munro, president of GASFRAC based in Calgary, Alberta.

Oil and gas companies dispose of water that cannot be recycled, using Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission guidelines where approximately 60 percent goes into underground injection wells, 20 percent is managed in evaporation ponds, and the remaining 20 percent goes into surface waters under permits by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The injection of water through an underground injection control well requires certain casing and cementing, monthly reporting on materials and volumes injected and pressure tests to ensure the waste stays in the designated area.

The majority of evaporation pits sit in the Raton Basin in southern Colorado, and some water is used on roads for dust suppression if it does not meet the necessary parameters for disposal in streams or rivers that are drinking sources.

Companies reuse recycled water most if the surrounding area has high demand for it in other operations; otherwise they dispose of the production water.

In the average mixture, water and sand make up roughly 99.5 percent of the mix with the additional 0.5 percent consisting of chemicals that assist the flow of sand into the formation, according to COGA.

In addition to water and sand, COGA reports that hydraulic fracturing mixtures include gelling agents to make fluids thicker cross linkers to continue to thicken fluids, breakers to thin fluids to ensure production after time, surfactants to improve production and recovery, biocides to control bacteria, and additional additives to address other challenges.

Liquefied petroleum’s lower specific gravity decreases the volume necessary in operations by half which can reduce truck traffic by up to 90 percent and eliminates the need for post stimulation transport, Munro said.

GASFRAC’s system is primarily propane due to its presence as a natural, non-damaging hydrocarbon, he said.

The liquefied petroleum gas gel alternative involves injecting petroleum gel combined with sand under high pressure into the shale at similar ratios to hydraulic fracturing, he said.

GASFRAC has worked with liquefied petroleum gas technologies since the company became operational in 2008 and provides consultation to companies in Canada and rural Texas.

The company lauds liquefied petroleum gas gel as a “rare technology breakthrough in the oil and gas industry that can deliver both economic and environmental benefits for its producers.”

GASFRAC utilizes three major components in the use of the gel: storage tanks, a sand blender and specialized high pressure pumping units.

The company’s storage tanks involve a boost pump and nitrogen pressurization which feed the gel into the sand blender. Tanks are coated with a pressurized nitrogen blanket as a safety measure, Munro said.

Proppant, such as sand, is preloaded, purged and pressurized with the nitrogen to create a sand laden mix that stimulates the reservoir.

The process ensures the even distribution of sand in the mixture, which prevents it from settling in formations.

Munro said that the gel offers fewer restrictions than water in that more sand can be added to the mix to increase down-hole pressure and that the mixture can be altered to each well more efficiently.

As a formation friendly substance, the gel reduces the damage to surrounding environment as it occurs naturally down hole and is within a closed pressurized system. On average, more than 75 percent of the propane can be recovered and sold again compared to water operations, were recycling and reusing water can present a challenge, Munro said.

Additionally, he said the presence of hydrocarbons already in production eliminates the presence of biocides found in conventional fracking operations.

“It’s way more environmentally friendly and less likely to cause seismic events such as earthquakes,” he said.

Compared to the price of water recovery, he said the gel has a minimal cost after companies resell or repurpose recovered propane.

Additionally, the lower surface tension of liquefied petroleum gas gel can also produce a higher yield from wells when used properly, Munro said.

Due to the substance acting as an energized gel, petroleum gel helps to push fracking fluid in the well which has the potential to increase the natural gas yield in the wells, McLennen said.

“There is a pretty dramatic curve,” Munro said. “If used properly there can be a dramatic uplift in production.”

Munro said that they have seen the most dramatic increase in production at their Texas sites.

Additionally, McLennen said the higher availability of propane on site allows to easier access for oil and gas companies.

Another benefit of the gel comes through the use of butane which helps performance under high-temperature surface conditions, he said.

However, McLennen said the use of gel petroleum presents safety considerations which would require new expenditures and precautions to avoid injury.

“They are very expensive and because of the explosive properties of the substances used, they can be very dangerous,” said Encana’s Media Relations Manager Doug Hock.

Hock said that due to the gel’s relatively recent appearance in the oil and gas world, very few companies know about its definite benefits and disadvantages or have done research into its applications on individual formations.

“In speaking with our chief of completions, he tells me that completely waterless fracs are seldom done,” Hock said.

Alternatively, Hock said Encana has utilized nitrogen gas in its San Juan Basin operations in New Mexico which reduces, but does not fully eliminate, water use.

“The reason for using a nitrogen (fracture) is low reservoir pressure,” he said. “While it does reduce the amount of freshwater used, that’s not why it’s used.” Nitrogen, which makes up between 30 and 70 percent of the mixture with water, is added at the wellhead in a mixture with the water and pumped down hole. The nitrogen additive appears as foam similar to shaving cream, Hock said.

Both nitrogen and CO2 do not have the same volatile properties and risk of explosion, he said.

“The main problem with propane is that it is explosive, that’s been the big challenge with it,” he said. “Of course, we’re always looking for new ways to be efficient.”

Other options, such as non-flammable hexaflouropropane used in inhalers, stand as viable options to decrease water use in hydraulic fracturing operations. Hexaflouropropane solutions virtually eliminates the flammability risk at the surface and replaces water in the fracking process, McLennen said.

In order to ensure the safety of on-site employees, GASFRAC implemented remote control shut-offs, automatic shutdowns if propane leaks are detected and thermal monitors. In addition to these precautions, no physical workers are present on site, Munro said.

Thermal cameras are used to monitor all high-pressure lines while crews monitor pressure transducers throughout the system remotely from vans offsite, according to the company’s safety statement.

“We’re the safest operations in the world,” he said. “These are the safest operations I’ve ever observed during my time in the industry.”

However, the necessary safety precautions to monitor the highly explosive propane can provide high overhead costs that can deter companies from implementing the use of gel to replace water.

“It’s not something we are exploring here for several operational and effectiveness issues,” Noble Energy Corporate Communications Manager Steve Silvers said.

While many companies, such as Noble Energy and Halliburton, do not currently use liquefied petroleum gel technology, Munro said that the growing popularity of hydrocarbon technology will lead to more widespread use of the substance in the future.

“For us it’s a game-changing technology,” he said. “It allows us to recapture and reuse (the gas) effectively.”

More oil and gas coverage here.

Ken Carlson wants to be an “honest broker” in a controversial world — Fort Collins Coloradoan

Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing graphic via Al Granberg
Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing graphic via Al Granberg

From the Fort Collins Colordoan (Sarah Jane Kyle):

Ken Carlson wants to be an “honest broker” in a controversial world.

The CSU professor of civil and environmental engineering studies the water used, produced and extracted from oil and gas sites in Colorado. His main goal is to give people information — not opinions.

“For every study that says the world’s coming to an end, there’s a study someone can produce that says everything’s great,” Carlson, 54, said. “We try hard to operate in the middle.”

Carlson, who has been with Colorado State University for 16 years, runs the school’s Center for Energy Water Sustainability. CEWS recently launched Colorado Water Watch, a real-time monitoring system for water quality at oil and gas wells.

The free and public website uses anomaly detection software to monitor five wells, including one control site at the Agricultural Research Development & Education Center, which is just across Interstate 25 from the Anheuser-Busch brewery and at least three miles away from oil and gas activity. The remaining wells are by active Noble Energy oil and gas sites in Weld County.

More oil and gas coverage here.

Energy Pipeline: Produced water from drilling sites may have other beneficial uses — The Greeley Tribune

DJ Basin Exploration via the Oil and Gas Journal
DJ Basin Exploration via the Oil and Gas Journal

From The Greeley Tribune (Tracy Hume):

Most of the produced water coming out of exploration and production operations in Weld County ends up being disposed of in one of 39 injection wells in the county. The produced water is injected back into the earth, thousands of feet deep, never to be used again.

Water quality expert Gary Beers thinks that’s a waste, and he is on the front lines of a growing movement to examine the economic and environmental benefits of treating and re-using produced water from oil and gas operations. Beers’ company, Industrial Water Permitting and Recycling Consultants, LLC, helps operators navigate Colorado’s complex regulatory environment and permitting processes to find better uses for produced water than just throwing it away.

“I was born and raised in southern Arizona, where water is very scarce,” Beers said, “I guess that planted the seed of being very concerned about not wasting water.”

Beers’ interest in water led him to pursue several degrees in the field, including a master’s degree in fisheries management from the University of Arizona and a doctorate in aquatic ecology from Utah State University. He established his consulting firm after a long career in the water quality field, including stints with the Environmental Protection Agency office in Denver and nearly 10 years in the Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment. His extensive experience on the regulatory side helps him to help operators identify and navigate the obstacles that impede beneficial use of produced water.

One of those obstacles is the public perception of produced water as “contaminated.” According to Beers, a lot of people “don’t understand that E&P (exploration and production) waste is just a category that’s used to identify any type of waste material generated while they’re drilling and producing oil and gas.

“But just because it is labeled ‘E&P waste’ doesn’t mean the water is polluted or anything; it just says that’s where it came from,” Beers said, “You can have E&P waste that’s very clean, or you can have E&P waste that’s contaminated. There is a lot of variability.”

Produced water comes in two main types, each with distinctive characteristics that have implications for beneficial use. The first type of water to return from a well, called “flowback,” is the water used to facilitate the initial drilling process, and may include traces of the chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing. The second type, “formation water,” is the water that is part of the original geological formation and is brought to the surface in the course of oil and gas production.

“Most of the produced water people talk about is the long-term formation water that’s brought up as the well is producing oil and gas,” Beers said. “The quality of the initial flowback water can change, because of the different chemicals used in drilling and other factors, but the quality of the formation water is pretty consistent, depending upon the original geological formation.”

Some operators in the DJ Basin have taken steps to treat and re-use produced water, including flowback water, for hydraulic fracturing. Flowback water may include chemical additives and total dissolved solids, but it typically includes fewer salts than formation water, making it easier to treat for industry re-use.

Concord Produced Water Services is a produced water treatment provider that Beers has worked with in the DJ Basin. Among the services Concord offers is mobile recycling units, which can be taken out into the field to treat flowback and produced water for re-use.

Re-use of produced water within industry operations is, in some ways, the most straightforward beneficial use to implement. When operators re-use produced water within their own organizations, it minimizes the number of regulatory hoops that have to be negotiated. Furthermore, the public typically supports industry re-use of produced water because it reduces the industry’s impact on public water supplies.

“There’s a lot of controversy around the issue of using fresh water supplies, such as surface water or shallow ground water, for hydraulic fracturing,” Beers said. “The use of public water to supply the oil and gas industry is a continuing issue in Weld County.”

The possibilities of treatment and re-use could make it possible for the industry to decrease its reliance on municipal water sources.

“There have been significant efforts to ramp up re-use practices in Weld County,” Beers said, pointing out that “in theory, the demand for water for hydraulic fracturing in Weld County could be met by recycling all the produced water five times over.”

Another possibility for beneficial use of produced water is dust suppression. Many rural communities with high numbers of dirt roads use significant amounts of water to mitigate dust and maintain roads. Some communities have begun exploring the idea of using produced water, particularly formation water, for this purpose.

“The deeper formations were laid down when the land was almost totally dominated by oceans,” Beers explained, “so produced water from these marine sediments typically has a high concentration of salts.” Interestingly, the composition of these briny produced waters is similar to the composition of common commercial magnesium chloride solutions municipalities use for dust control on unpaved roads. Beers sees an opportunity there.

“Many counties in Colorado spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for commercial magnesium chloride solutions,” Beers said, despite the fact that the produced water coming out of the oil fields might serve the same purpose.

However, this particular beneficial use is quite a bit trickier to implement. The beneficial use of produced water is overseen by a complex network of regulatory agencies including the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, and county permitting processes. Which regulations and permitting processes apply is contingent upon variables such as the produced water source; the composition of the water; whether the water has been treated, how it has been treated, and by whom; and the proposed use.

Beers finds irony in the fact that despite the similarities in composition between commercial magnesium chloride products and produced water (brine), there are virtually no regulatory hurdles to using a commercial magnesium chloride solution for dust suppression, but there are numerous regulatory hurdles to using produced water for the same purpose, because it is classified as industrial waste.

“Let’s say you’re going to buy ‘Compound X’ for dust suppression,” Beers said. “The company is required to disclose what chemicals they put in their solution. If you look at that, they’ll say so much magnesium chloride, etc. Then they’ll say ‘confidential’ or ‘proprietary’ ingredients and they won’t disclose what they are. So you don’t know.

“But if you were going to use produced water,” Beers said, “you would have to get state approval to do that. You would have to analyze hundreds of compounds and disclose what each of those were. So if you were going to buy the magnesium chloride solution from a commercial guy, he would say, ‘Well, it only has salt in it and a bunch of stuff which I can’t tell you.’ And then you look at the produced water and say, ‘Look at all of the things they found in it!’ Whether those components are harmful or not.

“Nine times out of ten the buyer will say, ‘I’m not going to get that produced water because it’s got all these weird things in it.’ But I’ve done some side-by-side testing and there are a lot of materials in the commercial products that they should tell you about, but they don’t, because they don’t have to,” Beers said.

The bottom line is, “it’s an uneven playing field, because recycled products, like produced water, have regulatory baggage and they have to disclose everything, unlike commercial products,” he said.

Beers sees the possibility of change on the horizon.

The industry is starting to acknowledge the economic benefits of water re-use. Treating and re-using water in the field cuts down on the cost of purchasing water and transporting it to the site. Treating produced water and using it for dust suppression, or similar beneficial uses, even holds the potential of turning an industry expense, such as disposal of produced water, into a revenue stream, such as selling treated produced water to municipalities.

Stakeholders, such as regulatory agencies, are also beginning to discuss streamlining permitting processes to make it easier to recycle produced water and use it for beneficial purposes. In January of this year, the Colorado Energy Office and the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University convened 65 stakeholders from the Grand Junction community to talk about re-use projects on Colorado’s Western Slope.

Beers said he believes that with enough education, the public, too, will begin to see the benefits of treating and using produced water.

“A lot of people are looking at beneficial uses for produced water,” Beers said, “it’s just a matter of having a few on-the-ground projects to show people that it does work and that it can be done.”

More oil and gas coverage here.

Taking the deal: Energy firm trades leases for certainty on Roan Plateau — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel #ColoradoRiver

Drilling sites in a valley on the Roan Plateau via The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
Drilling sites in a valley on the Roan Plateau via The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

A landmark deal canceling federal oil and gas leases on the Roan Plateau leaves Bill Barrett Corp. with just a sliver of its former holdings there, but it has high hopes about the prospects for the 4,650 acres it still controls. Nearly 500 wells could be drilled on that acreage, said Duane Zavadil, a senior vice president for the company.

In a lawsuit settlement announced last week, the company agreed to give up 17 of 19 leases it owned on the top of the plateau west of Rifle and be reimbursed about $47.6 million by the Bureau of Land Management. The canceled leases cover about 36,000 acres.

But Bill Barrett Corp. considers the leases it retained to have the highest prospects of the 19, given that they are immediately bordered on the south and west by acreage where companies have drilled producing wells, and where access roads, pipelines and other infrastructure already are in place.

The settlement resolves a lawsuit brought by conservation groups, and is one of the biggest lease buybacks ever for the BLM, and the biggest ever for the agency in Colorado.

“We were trading off acres and reserves for trying to drive a degree of regulatory and litigation certainty,” Zavadil said.

The settlement itself was no windfall for the company, he notes. Barrett bought the 19 leases for $60 million in 2009 from Vantage Energy, which had acquired them at the BLM’s Roan Plateau lease sale a year earlier for $57.6 million. But Vantage retained a 10 percent interest in them.

The $47.6 million the BLM is reimbursing for 17 of the leases covers what Vantage paid for them at the lease sale, and about $53,500 in total annual rental payments made on the canceled leases. Zavadil said Vantage will share in the reimbursement Barrett receives. In a news release Monday, Barrett said it will end up with $42.3 million in the settlement.

Under the deal, there’s no reimbursement for other costs such as legal fees related to the lawsuit and having money tied up for years in leases in legal limbo. But Zavadil said the reimbursed amount “is really all that could be accomplished” because there’s no federal mechanism for reimbursing for such additional expenditures in such cases.

The settlement “is equitable, it’s fair, it sort of is what it is,” said Zavadil, who said Bill Barrett Corp. never asked for more or less than that amount and no other amount ever was contemplated in settlement discussions.

As for settling in general, BBC knew that might be a necessity when it bought the leases due to the lawsuit that conservationists filed even before the 2008 lease sale occurred. But Zavadil said while Vantage already had been in settlement talks that potentially involved giving up some leases, Barrett initially had hoped to hold on to all of the leases and instead reach an agreement with conservation groups on measures to mitigate the impacts of developing them.

“We clearly erred in that assessment,” he said.

In 2010, Barrett showed its willingness to compromise in drilling projects on federal lands when it struck a deal with environmentalists to downsize its development plan for the West Tavaputs Plateau outside Price, Utah, to address concerns such as protection of lands with wilderness characteristics.

But the company couldn’t get buy-in from conservation groups on developing all its Roan Plateau leases. And in 2012, a federal judge found fault with the BLM’s management plan that led to those and other leases being offered. Barrett appealed and the BLM reopened its Roan Plateau planning process.

It was during court-mandated mediation following Barrett’s appeal that the concept of giving up leases began to solidify.

One thing that helped facilitate a settlement was the fact that the lease areas Barrett most wanted to keep and the areas that conservationists most wanted to protect generally didn’t overlap. The remaining Barrett lease areas don’t have habitat for endangered plants or for the native Colorado River cutthroat trout, and are largely landlocked by private property and not easily accessible to the public, which minimizes their recreational value, Zavadil said.

BBC also has agreed to limit its drilling to seven well pads on the two leases combined.

Zavadil said Barrett worried that had it not settled, a whole new round of litigation would have followed the BLM’s revised Roan Plateau plan.

“What we were trying to avoid was more delay in having capital tied up without any real hope of sort of resolving the litigation,” he said.

Instead, the BLM will consider the settlement agreement as one of its alternatives in its new planning process, which it hopes to finish within two years. Groups involved in the suit waive the right to further challenge the BLM’s decision if it selects the settlement alternative.

Zavadil said Bill Barrett Corp. is happy with the settlement and believes it’s “as good an outcome as one could hope for.”

Michael Freeman, an attorney for the group Earthjustice who represented conservation groups in the lawsuit, said while both sides litigated the case pretty hard up through the district court decision, afterward they realized a win-win situation was possible.

“To Barrett’s credit they were willing to work really hard to get it done and make it happen,” Freeman said.

Zavadil said Barrett will look at natural gas prices once the BLM completes its revised Roan plan to see if it makes sense to develop the acreage then. Gas prices began declining in 2008, even before Barrett’s Roan purchase, but prices have remained depressed ever since due in large part to a boom in domestic production from shale formations. And drilling on the plateau top will cost more than operations closer to the Colorado River valley floor, where access is easier and wells don’t have to be drilled as deeply to reach gas-bearing formations.

Zavadil noted that gas price isn’t the only determinant, pointing out that WPX Energy has been drilling on highlands locations.

“But we have a lot of assets that have a higher rate of return at this point of time” than the Roan leases, he said.

Barrett has shifted its focus in recent years from gas to oil production, which as a result has meant a shift in its attention from western Colorado’s gas-based Piceance Basin holdings to assets in northeastern Colorado and in northeastern Utah’s Uinta Basin. In September it announced the sale of its other Piceance Basin natural gas holdings, which included some 950 wells south of Silt. It also has sold other gas assets including its West Tavaputs acreage in Utah.

Zavadil said he can’t speak to whether Barrett’s Roan acreage might be put up for sale, any more than whether anything else the company owns is for sale.

“At any moment in time, it’s all for sale, and none of it’s for sale,” and it all depends on whether someone comes to BBC offering the right price on any of its assets, Zavadil said.

But he said it’s safe to say Barrett will pursue the regulatory authorizations to drill on its Roan leases.

He said it’s also important to understand that the company didn’t pursue the settlement and reimbursement for the 17 leases because of low gas prices. If not for the legal and regulatory risks that were involved, he said, Barrett “would still absolutely own every acre” it had acquired on the Roan Plateau.

roanplateausettlementmapviadailysentinel11212014

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

In what is being hailed as a model for how to deal with oil and gas development on other special landscapes, 17 leases are being canceled on top of the Roan Plateau under a deal intended to let drilling go forward on other leases on and below the plateau rim. Seventeen of 19 oil and gas leases owned by Bill Barrett Corp. on the plateau top are being canceled, and the company will be reimbursed about $47.6 million for the costs of acquiring and making annual rental payments on the canceled leases under a lawsuit settlement announced Friday.

“In a nutshell, I think this is a really positive resolution,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in an interview with The Daily Sentinel.

The Bureau of Land Management also has agreed to pay $400,000 to settle all claims to attorney fees, expenses and costs by the conservation groups that brought the lawsuit. Those are among the terms of a deal to resolve a lawsuit challenging the BLM’s management plan leading to the leasing of some 55,000 acres on and around the Roan Plateau west of Rifle in 2008.

The deal doesn’t guarantee that the acreage where the leases were canceled will be off-limits to leasing. Rather, the BLM has agreed to consider the settlement agreement as one alternative in an ongoing supplemental environmental impact statement re-evaluating its prior Roan Plateau plan because of a 2012 court ruling in the lawsuit.

If the BLM chooses to again lease the 17 canceled parcels, the conservation groups could sue again or otherwise challenge the decision.

Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he “would be amazed” if the BLM didn’t select the settlement agreement as its final management alternative.

Said Michael Freeman, an Earthjustice attorney who has been litigating the Roan Plateau case for conservation groups, “What this deal does is to create a path forward to give the Roan the kind of protection it deserves. There’s more work to be done to implement the settlement.”

Legally, the BLM can’t commit to a course of action until it finishes its new planning process, Freeman said. But he also is confident that the settlement alternative will be selected.

“What we’ve agreed to in the settlement provides kind of a consensus proposal for how to manage the Roan. We think it’s a really good balance between protecting the habitat, the lands of the Roan, but also allowing responsible drilling to happen in appropriate places,” he said.

The settlement agreement calls for the lands where the leases were canceled to be closed for leasing for the life of the revised management plan, Freeman said.

If the BLM selects the settlement agreement as its alternative, the conservation groups involved in the suit also “additionally agree to engage as broad a spectrum of the environmental and conservation community as possible” and encourage them not to pursue an administrative or legal challenge to it, the agreement says.

Leases issued in 2008 on the Roan but not canceled could begin seeing development once the BLM’s planning process is complete, something the agency has agreed to try to accomplish within two years.

“For the first time in decades western Colorado’s natural gas companies are very close to securing responsible drilling on and around the Roan Plateau. This compromise will provide decades of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars for local communities,” said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Jewell, Gov. John Hickenlooper and other officials announced the settlement in Denver Friday.

Hickenlooper said in a release, “We are thrilled to see resolution for this decade-long controversy over one of Colorado’s most special places. This settlement will protect the valuable fish and wildlife resources atop the Roan Plateau, while clearing the way for orderly development to take place elsewhere in the planning area.”

The Roan Plateau rises from the Colorado River Valley to some 9,000 feet in elevation and is noted for its biodiversity. It provides important habitat to deer and elk, is home to rare plants and provides important habitat for native Colorado River cutthroat trout, which now occupy less than a 10th of its historic range. The settlement cancels all the leases in the Trapper and Northwater Creek watersheds, which conservationists say hold the best cutthroat trout habitat on the Roan.

Bill Barrett Corp. once had projected drilling more than 3,000 wells on its Roan leases.

“This settlement helps us achieve the goal of preserving important natural areas like the Roan Plateau in Colorado while oil and gas development continues in Colorado and across the West,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado.

The settlement contains restrictions on how Bill Barrett Corp. can develop its two remaining Roan Plateau leases, including limiting it to seven well pad locations altogether on the leases.

Twelve other Roan Plateau leases issued under the 2008 lease sale would remain in place under the settlement agreement. Those are owned by WPX Energy, Oxy USA and Ursa Resources. But the agreement requires that before drilling on those leases, the companies submit proposed master development plans, and include within them conditions to minimize impacts on wildlife and other resources, identified through consultation with the BLM and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Jewell said that while she doesn’t like lawsuits, this suit identified opportunities for the BLM to do a better job on the Roan Plateau plan. She said she appreciates the plaintiffs raising concerns and others recognizing those concerns and coming to the table to settle, and said the settlement is “a model for collaboration” on public land management.

The Interior Department is looking elsewhere “at what are the areas too special to develop,” and trying to steer drilling to areas of high development potential and less conflict, so there’s more certainty for industry, she said.

Freeman said the settlement is an example of how the BLM “can strike a balance that protects the really important areas of public lands that shouldn’t be drilled,” while identifying places where drilling is appropriate.

The federal government shares about half of its oil and gas lease revenue with the state of Colorado, which will be responsible for reimbursing its portion of the revenue Bill Barrett Corp. will be receiving under the deal. That will occur by the federal government withholding future royalty distributions to the state, BLM spokesman David Boyd said.

Hickenlooper is pushing legislation to ensure refunding the canceled leases has no financial impacts on local governments, with which the state shares federal lease revenues.

The state and local governments expect federal mineral lease revenue associated with developing the remaining Roan Plateau leases will more than offset the costs of canceling the 17 leases.

Scot Woodall, chief executive officer of Bill Barrett Corp., said on the company’s website that he appreciated the community and elected-official support for the settlement.

“It was critical to us that Garfield and Mesa counties, who host our business, support the agreement. To that end, the county commissioners, in particular Garfield Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, worked tirelessly along with State Representative Bob Rankin, a member of the Joint Budget Committee of the General Assembly, to ensure that local communities would not suffer an economic loss as a consequence of settlement.”

Rankin is a Republican from Carbondale.

In an interview, Duane Zavadil, a senior vice president for the company, said the work of Hickenlooper, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, and U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., in encouraging Jewell to approve the deal was crucial.

He also credited the BLM and Interior Department for being willing “to get creative … to cause this settlement to happen as well.”

The plateau-top leases initially were acquired by Vantage Energy for $57.6 million. In 2009, Bill Barrett Corp. obtained a 90 percent interest in those lease under a $60 million deal.

# # #

Timeline of the Roan Plateau events

1997— Congress passes Transfer Act shifting authority over the Roan Plateau acreage at issue from the Energy Department to the Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management.
2000-08 — BLM works on resource management plan for Roan, receiving more than 75,000 public comments on draft plan. Most favor strong protections and oppose drilling on public lands on top.
July 2008 — Conservation groups sue, challenging BLM management plan paving way for oil and gas lease sale on Roan Plateau.
August 2008 — Lease sale covering about 55,000 acres nets $114 million, which for the Bureau of Land Management at that time was the largest ever in total dollars in the continental United States.
June 2012 — U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger rules that the BLM failed to adequately consider keeping drilling off the plateau top by requiring use of directional drilling from surrounding lands, and failed to sufficiently consider air quality issues.
August 2012: Bill Barrett Corp., owner of the leases on the plateau top, appeals the ruling. Conservation groups cross-appeal.
January 2013: The BLM announces it will conduct supplemental planning process to address issues raised by court.
Early 2013: Parties in litigation enter mandated mediation with an appeals court representative.
Nov. 21, 2014: Settlement of suit announced; 17 leases will be canceled.

Sources: Daily Sentinel archives, plaintiffs in lawsuit

The plaintiffs

Following are the conservation groups that legally challenged the Bureau of Land Management’s plan leading to leasing of some 55,000 acres for oil and gas development on the Roan Plateau:

Colorado Mountain Club
Conservation Colorado
Colorado Trout Unlimited
National Wildlife Federation
Natural Resources Defense Council
Rock the Earth
Rocky Mountain Wild
Sierra Club
The Wilderness Society
Wilderness Workshop

More oil and gas coverage here.

Roan Plateau drilling deal hailed as win-win — The Colorado Independent

roanplateuaviabobberwyn

From The Colorado Independent (Bob Berwyn):

A 15 year battle over fossil fuel drilling on northwest Colorado’s remote and rugged Roan Plateau ended last week with the type of compromise that’s rare in energy showdowns.

Under the court-approved deal, the Bureau of Land Management will develop a new plan for the Roan that would protect the most important natural areas atop the 34,000 acre plateau while enabling some drilling in other areas, especially around the base of the plateau.

Energy companies agreed to avoid building roads and drill pads in the plateau’s most sensitive reaches. Both sides said they won’t raise any legal challenges to the deal if the BLM adopts the development option spelled out so far. Specifically, the agreement cancels 17 existing leases atop the Roan Plateau. The Bill Barrett Corporation, which bought the leases in 2008, will get a $47 million refund. Two leases on top of the plateau, as well as others along the base, will remain valid.

The most recent wrangling over the Roan started in 2008, when the BLM leased off the parcels under a Bush administration plan that critics described as a sweetheart deal for energy companies. But the history of the Roan goes all the way back to the 1910s, when the area was set aside as a Naval Petroleum Reserve.

That Bush-era deal was successfully challenged in 2012, when a federal court ordered the BLM to take a closer look at regional air quality impacts and other parts of the drilling plan

The BLM estimates there are about 4.2 trillion cubic feet of gas under the top of the plateau and another 4.7 trillion cubic feet under the lands below the rim, including the cliffs of the plateau, which could generate close to $1 billion for the federal government.

The deal has bipartisan political backing from Democratic U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, as well as Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, and the energy industry offered a positive response to the announcement from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

“For the first time in decades Western Colorado’s natural gas companies are very close to securing responsible drilling on and around the Roan Plateau.This compromise will provide decades of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars for local communities,” said David Ludlam, director of West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

“After many years of discord and disagreement, this settlement represents a path forward for the people of Colorado, for the oil and gas industry, and for those that seek to protect critical wildlife habitat,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “A broad coalition of local, state, industry and conservation leaders came together to make this possible.”

For environmentalists, the Roan Plateau was one of several lines in the sand, similar to the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if approved, would bring tar sands oil from Canada across the Great Plains states.

Throughout the fights over the Roan, organizations like Trout Unlimited and Conservation Colorado touted the natural resource values of the plateau and vowed to take every possible legal step to protect the area.

The drilling industry argued that the Roan had long been foreseen as an area for energy development. In 1977, the reserves were transferred to the U.S. Department of Energy, which immediately drilled 24 natural gas wells below the plateau.

In 1997, through a defense spending bill, the reserves were transferred to the Department of Interior. The measure also required the Department of Interior to start leasing the area “as soon as practicable.” The energy industry hung its hat on that so-called transfer act for many years as it argued for the right to pursue energy development on the plateau.

“Conservationists, hunters, anglers and wildlife advocates welcome this settlement and the opportunity it provides to conserve an area rich in wildlife and unparalleled scenic vistas,” Conservation Colorado director Pete Maysmith said in a prepared statement. “The Roan Plateau’s lush valleys and pristine waterways are important to herds of mule deer, elk and genetically pure Colorado River cut throat trout, significantly enhancing the regions outdoor recreational economy.”

[Image of oil and gas development on the Roan by airphotona.]

Secretary Jewell, Gov. Hickenlooper, Colorado Congressional Delegation Announce Landmark Settlement for Colorado’s Roan Plateau


From the High Country News (Sarah Gilman):

on Friday, November 21, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell took the podium at the state capital building to announce that the parties involved had reached a landmark settlement that seems to make everyone happy. Under its terms, 16 of the 18 leases issued on the top of the plateau will be canceled, effectively protecting about 90 percent of its 38,000 acres of federal land — and the bulk of the plateau’s sensitive resources — from future energy development. One lease will also be canceled at the plateau’s base. Companies will be able to persist with plans for the remaining 16,000 acres of leases there, albeit with provisions prohibiting surface disturbance on about half the area to protect wildlife. Bill Barrett Corp., which holds the cancelled leases, will receive a $47.6 million refund.

“We are grateful for the efforts of the BLM and the support of our elected officials and our host community to see this agreement realized,” Scot Woodall, CEO of Bill Barrett Corporation, said in a statement. “The settlement ends a long period of uncertainty that has limited our ability to invest in development and to bring the Roan’s natural gas to market.”

Environmentalists, meanwhile, are lauding the agreement as a model that could be exported to other high conflict public lands, demonstrating the kind of effective compromise that could have staved off a lawsuit in the first place. The preemptive approach has been increasingly in vogue in recent years. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, for example, has struck compromise deals in northeastern Utah with Bill Barrett and another company called Anadarko, protecting wilderness-quality lands from development while allowing drilling to go forward unchallenged in other spots – an approach to avoiding future litigation that SUWA staffers say was enabled by its successful record of past litigation. The group has also been actively engaged in an effort led by Utah Rep. Rob Bishop to execute a similar compromise on a much broader swath of contentious public lands in the state.

But just as that issue has yet to be settled, the Roan conflagration could flare up yet again. While the BLM has agreed to analyze the settlement as one if its possible approaches to managing the area, that doesn’t mean the agency has to select it. And if it doesn’t, any of the litigants could pile back on. Still, EarthJustice attorney Mike Freeman is optimistic. “Given the broad support from both industry and conservationists, I have hope that the BLM will adopt it,” Freeman told me shortly after the settlement was announced. Now six years into representing environmental interests in the case, Freeman’s not sure what he’ll be tackling next. “I don’t doubt something will come along that demands our attention,” he says with a chuckle. “But I’m going to have a beer tonight first.” No word on whether he plans to do so in a hot shower.

Here’s the release from Governor Hickenloopers office:

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined Governor John Hickenlooper and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet to announce a landmark settlement agreement that will help protect the Roan Plateau near Rifle, Colorado, while also encouraging natural gas development. The settlement helps protect wildlife and supports opportunities for outdoor recreation and energy development, all of which play an important role in Colorado’s economy.

Local county commissioners and representatives of the conservation and energy communities were also in attendance for today’s announcement.

The settlement agreement, reached with conservation groups and oil and gas leaseholders, cancels 17 of the 19 leases issued on the plateau in 2008 and refunds approximately $47.6 million in bonus bids and annual rental payments to the Bill Barrett Corporation. The remaining two leases on top of the plateau and 12 leases located at the base of the plateau will remain in place.

“This is great news for the State of Colorado and for the local community who has worked hard to strike a balance between protecting open space and energy development,” said Secretary Jewell. “The Roan Plateau is an extraordinary place, and this settlement is a model for what can be accomplished when we all come to the table and work to find solutions.”

“We are thrilled to see resolution for this decade-long controversy over one of Colorado’s most special places,” said Hickenlooper. “This settlement will protect the valuable fish and wildlife resources atop the Roan Plateau, while clearing the way for orderly development to take place elsewhere in the planning area. We applaud the parties for setting aside their differences and charting a productive path forward. It really is the Colorado way.”

“Coloradans understand that we have a special responsibility to protect places like the Roan Plateau for today’s recreationists, outdoorsmen and hunters and future generations. I am proud the U.S. Department of the Interior heeded my call — and that of a growing bipartisan coalition — to support an end to the longtime dispute over the future of the Roan Plateau,” said U.S. Senator Mark Udall. “This collaborative settlement is a Colorado-based solution. I have fought for a balanced solution to the Roan Plateau since my time in the U.S. House of Representatives, and this agreement underscores how Coloradans truly are rugged collaborators.”

“Our local communities and the leaseholders have worked out this compromise. They’ve agreed to it because it balances a variety of needs and interests by allowing for some development while also establishing crucial environmental and wildlife safeguards,” said U.S. Senator Michael Bennet. “Secretary Jewell has recognized the significance of this locally-led agreement, and we’re thankful she has signed off on the settlement.”

“This agreement is the result of a diverse group of stakeholders joining together to find a solution to the long-running dispute that has prevented responsible energy production from moving forward on the Roan Plateau,” said Congressman Scott Tipton. “We worked to ensure that protections are in place to hold local communities harmless for any royalties that may need to be paid back. As a result, impacted communities including Garfield and Mesa Counties voiced their support and helped push the agreement across the finish line.”

The Roan Plateau is considered one of Colorado’s most ecologically diverse landscapes. It is a popular destination for hunting, fishing, and backcountry recreation. The dramatic topography of the plateau hosts an array of game and sensitive species. The landscape is known for its spectacular cliffs, waterfalls, and box canyons.

“After many years of discord and disagreement, this settlement represents a path forward for the people of Colorado, for the oil and gas industry, and for those that seek to protect critical wildlife habitat,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “A broad coalition of local, state, industry and conservation leaders came together to make this possible.”

In August 2008, BLM Colorado hosted a lease sale that included parcels located on the Roan Plateau based on a Record of Decision that was later challenged in U.S. District Court. In January 2013, the BLM announced it would prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Roan Plateau to address deficient environmental analysis in the 2008 decision. As part of this settlement agreement, the BLM has agreed to consider a “Settlement Alternative” to the ongoing SEIS that would make the lands covered by the canceled leases closed to new leasing while keeping open for exploration and development the lands covered by the retained leases.

“We are grateful for the efforts of the BLM and the support of our elected officials and our host community to see this agreement realized,” said Scot Woodall, CEO of Bill Barrett Corporation. “The settlement ends a long period of uncertainty that has limited our ability to invest in development and to bring the Roan’s natural gas to market. We look forward to working with BLM as they complete the analysis necessary to start drilling.”

“Conservationists, hunters, anglers and wildlife advocates welcome this settlement and the opportunity it provides to conserve an area rich in wildlife and unparalleled scenic vistas,” said Pete Maysmith, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado. “The Roan Plateau’s lush valleys and pristine waterways are important to herds of mule deer, elk and genetically pure Colorado River cut throat trout, significantly enhancing the regions outdoor recreational economy. This settlement helps us achieve the goal of preserving important natural areas like the Roan Plateau in Colorado while oil and gas development continues in Colorado and across the West.”

The settlement agreement was approved by the U.S. Department of Justice and can be found on the BLM website at: http://www.blm.gov/co.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Seventeen of 19 oil and gas leases owned by Bill Barrett Corp. on top of the Roan Plateau will be canceled and the company will be reimbursed about $47.6 million for the costs of acquiring and making annual rental payments on the canceled leases under a lawsuit settlement announced today.

The Bureau of Land Management also has agreed to pay $400,000 to settle all claims to attorney fees, expenses and costs by the conservation groups that brought the lawsuit.

Those are among the terms of a deal to resolve a lawsuit challenging the BLM’s management plan leading to the leasing of some 55,000 acres on and around the Roan Plateau west of Rifle in 2008.

Another notable part of the deal is that it doesn’t guarantee that the acreage where the leases were canceled will be off-limits to leasing in the future. Rather, the BLM simply has agreed to consider the settlement agreement as one alternative in an ongoing supplemental environmental impact statement re-evaluating its prior Roan Plateau plan due to a 2012 court ruling in the lawsuit. If the BLM chooses to lease the 17 canceled parcels, the conservation groups could sue again or otherwise challenge the decision.

The BLM has agreed to do its best to complete its new planning effort within two years.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Gov. John Hickenlooper and other officials were scheduled to announce the Roan settlement in a 1 p.m. press conference in Denver today.

“This is great news for the state of Colorado and for the local community who has worked hard to strike a balance between protecting open space and energy development,” Jewell said in an Interior Department news release. “The Roan Plateau is an extraordinary place, and this settlement is a model for what can be accomplished when we all come to the table and work to find solutions.”

Hickenlooper said in the same release, “We are thrilled to see resolution for this decade-long controversy over one of Colorado’s most special places. This settlement will protect the valuable fish and wildlife resources atop the Roan Plateau, while clearing the way for orderly development to take place elsewhere in the planning area. We applaud the parties for setting aside their differences and charting a productive path forward. It really is the Colorado way.”

The Roan Plateau rises from the Colorado River Valley to some 9,000 feet in elevation and is noted for its biodiversity. It provides important habitat to deer and elk, is home to rare plants and provides important habitat for native Colorado River cutthroat trout, which now occupies less than a tenth of its historic range. The settlement cancels all the leases in the Trapper and Northwater Creek watersheds, which conservationists say holds the best cutthroat trout habitat on the Roan.

Bill Barrett Corp. once had projected drilling more than 3,000 wells on its Roan leases.

“This settlement helps us achieve the goal of preserving important natural areas like the Roan Plateau in Colorado while oil and gas development continues in Colorado and across the West,” Pete Maysmith, executive director, of Conservation Colorado, said in today’s joint news release.

Said Scot Woodall, chief executive officer of Bill Barrett Corp., “The settlement ends a long period of uncertainty that has limited our ability to invest in development and to bring the Roan’s natural gas to market. We look forward to working with BLM as they complete the analysis necessary to start drilling.”

The settlement contains restrictions on how Bill Barrett Corp. can develop its two remaining Roan Plateau leases, including limiting it to seven well pad locations altogether on the leases.

Twelve other Roan Plateau leases issued under the 2008 lease sale would remain in place under the settlement agreement. Those are owned by WPX Energy, Oxy USA and Ursa Resources. But the agreement requires that before drilling on those leases, the companies submit proposed master development plans, and include within them conditions to minimize impacts on wildlife and other resources, identified through consultation with the BLM and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The federal government shares about half of its oil and gas lease revenues with the state of Colorado, which will be responsible for reimbursing its portion of the revenues Bill Barrett Corp. will be receiving under the deal. That could occur by the federal government withholding future distributions to the state. Hickenlooper has promised to support state legislation that would ensure refunding the canceled leases has no financial impacts on local governments, with which the state shares federal lease revenues.

The state and local governments expect revenues associated with developing the remaining Roan Plateau leases will more than offset the costs of canceling the 17 leases.

The plateau-top leases initially were acquired by Vantage Energy for $57.6 million. In 2009, Bill Barrett Corp. obtained a 90 percent interest in those lease under a $60 million deal.

Altogether, the 2008 Roan lease sale netted $114 million, which for the BLM at that time was the largest ever in total dollars in the continental United States.

In 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger ruled that the BLM failed to adequately consider keeping drilling off the plateau top by requiring use of directional drilling from surrounding lands, and failed to sufficiently consider air quality issues.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

The landmark deal protects most of the public lands on top of Roan from drilling, at least for the foreseeable future, while allowing development to continue on other leases in the area, including those at the base of the Roan.

The settlement was announced Friday afternoon at a joint press conference at the state Capitol called by Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

“This is great news for the state of Colorado and for the local community, who have worked hard to strike a balance between protecting open space and energy development,” Jewell said in a formal news release.

“The Roan Plateau is an extraordinary place, and this settlement is a model for what can be accomplished when we all come to the table and work to find solutions,” she said.

Hickenlooper reacted to the formal release of the settlement by the Bureau of Land Management, Bill Barrett Corp. and a coalition of environmental groups, saying, “We are thrilled to see resolution for this decade-long controversy over one of Colorado’s most special places.

“This settlement will protect the valuable fish and wildlife resources atop the Roan Plateau, while clearing the way for orderly development to take place elsewhere in the planning area,” the governor said.

More oil and gas coverage here.

Opinion: Just call John Hickenlooper the Silver Fox — High Country News #COWaterPlan

Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference
Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference

From the High Country News (Forrest Whitman):

John Hickenlooper, the recently re-elected (by a whisker) governor of Colorado, should be called the new “silver fox” for his work on water sharing, in memory of Delphus Carpenter, who earned that title back in 1922. That year, Carpenter cajoled seven Western states into signing the historic agreement that divvied up the Colorado River.

Delph Carpenter
Delph Carpenter

Hickenlooper was certainly wily as a fox when he brokered a difficult deal this summer between the oil and gas industry and Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis. Hickenlooper got Polis to back down from his campaign to put anti-fracking legislation on the ballot, and created a bipartisan commission to work out tougher fracking rules. Hickenlooper avoided a messy political battle while also spurring a fracking pact and developing a first-ever statewide water plan. It was the kind of thing Delphus Carpenter might have done.

Hickenlooper did something revolutionary when he signed a water plan for the entire state, and now, what he calls regional round tables are working hard to find ways to turn the plan into action. Early results show that some water providers east of the Rockies might agree to stop their destructive “buy up and dry up” programs on the state’s Western Slope. At the same time, stakeholders are working on water-conservation ideas, since we’re expecting a shortfall of a half-million acre-feet within the next decade.

This is not just a Colorado plan, because it offers relief to hard-pressed states downstream. That’s important, of course, because water in much of the West begins in Colorado. If we can put more water into rivers that feed into the Colorado River, neighbors as far away as the Sea of Cortez will benefit. It will certainly help states like California, now ravaged by terrible drought.

Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives
Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives

When Delphus Carpenter, the first “silver fox of the Rockies,” got seven states to agree on how to share a river, he put a stop to legal water battles that were just beginning to get bitter and expensive. The compact wasn’t perfect, organized as it was during some of the wettest years in recent history. And increasing drought continues to dim and challenge its assumptions. Changing realities over time will also affect the new Colorado water plan, as well as the oil and gas pact.

Meanwhile, stakeholders have been asked to do something that is not in their natures. The oil and gas industry is seriously looking at ways to interfere less with local communities, which means that it’s talking beyond the mineral rights to which it’s entitled. The same is true with the water plan. Instead of trying to divert existing water for more supply in their own basin, the assembled landowners, water utilities and others are talking about ways to deal with shortages. They’re talking about how much water they can save and how to help the whole state have water. Interstate water compacts are at the table as well, because these obligations don’t go away.

Hickenlooper is responding to many obvious factors, such as the big drought of 2004-’05, and especially to the frightening predictions that Colorado, like the rest of the West, is soon going to be at “peak water” yield. Peak yield will happen when the water resource is giving us absolutely everything it can give. Hickenlooper’s also responding to the political facts about oil and gas development. Fracking may not be popular, but it’s also a $30 billion industry.

I’ve never served on an oil and gas commission, but I have served on one of those water roundtables. I’ve seen how hard it is to look beyond the immediate water needs of “our” basin. It’s also tough to preach moderation and quality of life to oil and gas drillers. How did this new “silver fox” do it?

Hickenlooper played what baseball managers call “little ball.” He didn’t hit for the fences, but made one little move at a time. He apparently aimed to be successful with just one person at a time. He is inclusive, he listens, and he’s persuasive: I still have the little silver water pin he once gave me.

Delphus Carpenter did the same thing. He urged representatives from the seven states that rely on the Colorado River to come together at Bishop’s Lodge near Santa Fe 92 years ago. The basic compact they signed back then still holds. Years ago, Carpenter gave all the credit for the deal to President Herbert Hoover. Hickenlooper does much the same thing with his “aw shucks, it wasn’t me” attitude. If that doesn’t sound like a Silver Fox, I don’t know what does.

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.