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Drilling Grows in Urban Areas

by Kenneth E. DuBose on October 26, 2011

Drilling is expanding in urban areas like Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Pittsburgh. Don’t expect that to change any time soon. The industry will go where it can make a margin. The side effect is the industry is much more visible to the average citizen. Oil & gas producers will be educating people about the industry for years to come.

A half-hour north of downtown Denver, Weld County stretches toward Wyoming with more active oil and gas wells — 17,388 as of this month according to state figures — than almost any other county in the United States

An hour south, the state’s second-largest city, Colorado Springs, is scrambling to write its first drilling regulations, with the prospect of wells within city limits as early as next year. An 18,000-acre former ranch — zoned for housing that mostly never materialized — was bought this month on the city’s east side for $20 million by a Canadian company, Ultra Petroleum, which has also bought more than 100,000 acres of mineral rights farther east in El Paso County in recent months. The county, officials say, has never had a producing oil or gas well in historical memory.

To the west, in the high-country playlands of the Rocky Mountains, the story is the same: drilling, and tensions over drilling, in places where that generally has not happened before. In Routt County, west of Rocky Mountain National Park, energy companies are exploring extensions of the Niobrara. In affluent Aspen, county commissioners have passed regulations, now being fought by the industry, that would all but halt exploration.

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