Energy Forum attracts crowd

James Branch of ExxonMobil and Susan Alvillar of Williams were two of the speakers at the March 10 Energy Forum.

James Branch of ExxonMobil and Susan Alvillar of Williams were two of the speakers at the March 10 Energy Forum.RBC I Perhaps in a sign of the times, the second chamber of commerce-sponsored Energy Forum attracted a standing-room-only crowd.
Eighty-three people packed the community room at Mountain Valley Bank to receive updates — and perhaps in the hopes of hearing some encouraging news — from representatives of companies operating in the Piceance Basin and in the area. About half as many people attended a similar meeting last year.
Local energy workers and community leaders were among the crowd of people who turned out for the March 10 energy forum, sponsored by the Meeker Chamber of Commerce. Here’s a sampling of responses to what the industry representatives had to say:
Peter Brixius, Rangely town manager
“From the presentations, it appeared that we are going to see some increased activity across the board, but certainly timid compared to activity two years ago. I felt some optimism from the presenters and we certainly appreciated them taking time to share their activities. It looks like 2011 will see more improvement.
“The towns, finances permitting, need to continue to improve the characteristics and amenities of their communities. We will need to continue focusing our attention on housing and infrastructure improvements. Addr-essing economic diversity and development in a process-oriented appr-oach will also be required as well as looking at reasonable incentives for developers when the opportunity appears right for the community.”
Rod Gerloff, Meeker town board member
“I think the speakers sounded positive. At least they are looking at continuing to develop the resource. I am encouraged that they seem to think there will still be some activity in the area. I am discouraged about the direction that the governor and other political leaders have chosen in regards to energy development. As far as action steps are concerned, I believe that the town of Meeker needs to move ahead with at least two infrastructure projects that could help both in the near future and beyond. I hope that if I am re-elected as a trustee that I will be able bring these two items up and show the importance of having them completed.”
Pat Hooker, Rio Blanco County administrator
“Cautious optimism is what I heard from the energy companies. Sounds like they are planning for some ‘small level’ of increased activity this year and into 2011. Two big black clouds need to go away — low price for natural gas and the sluggish economy. The uncertainty of pending legislation could cause lots of headaches too. Some of the green legislation might also hurt. Whatever ‘ramp up’ of oil and gas activity will probably be slow, which might not be such a bad thing for us, so we’re better able to react and plan for it.
“As for action steps, I think the most important thing we (as government, both towns and county) need to do is to have regular and meaningful conversations/meetings/dialogue with the energy companies, especially oil and gas. I think Wendy Gutierrez’s comment about encouraging the oil and gas workers to shop and live in our local communities is a very important issue. We, government, need to initiate the dialogue. We have the vested interest, more so than the oil and gas companies. The bottom-line question we need to ask each other is, ‘What can we do to help you be more successful and meet your needs?’ Energy companies have needs/wants and so do we, so we need to work together to make it happen.
“Lets face it, everyone knows we have a housing shortage in our towns and county. We have very limited shopping opportunities (retail/business diversity). If we expect people to want to live and shop here, we must offer opportunities in both areas. We have to decide what we want Meeker, Rangely and RBC to be and then make it happen … prioritize what we want/need, and then get it done.”
Scott Isenhour, general manager, Redi Services
“I have the opportunity to talk with guys on a daily basis about where they think the oil and gas industry is heading in the near future. I wasn’t surprised when there was still a lot of uncertainty of much expansion of the market in the next couple of years. But, of course, if prices would rise dramatically then we would see more rigs go up and therefore more people to spend money in the community. We as a community would see immediate effects from a Meeker 3 (gas) plant being built. But from comments yesterday by Shawn with Enterprise, we would need to see substantial increases of product being moved through the existing plants to build another one. So the rumors of that happening in the near future were just that, rumors. I really liked the comment from the Williams speaker who said that he was impressed with what the town is doing with the new elementary school and rec center and making this a more attractive place to live. I agree that it is those types of projects that will attract larger companies with employees that would love to live in Meeker. Through forums like this we become more educated to what is going on in the field, so therefore we can have educated conversations with our friends and families about the industry.”
Ken Parsons, Rio Blanco County chairman from Rangely
“I think they’re consistent with what I’ve been hearing elsewhere. The economy is slowly improving and the industry is cautiously expanding its operations. The county will continue working with the industry where it is to our mutual benefit.”
Dick Welle, general manager, White River Electric Association
“Much what I heard was anticipated, but I believe it’s the start of a gradual increase in activity that holds promise. But definitely not at the pace the rest of the room wanted or anticipated. Events yet to unfold that could positively affect outcomes is a potential change in both state and federal leadership roles come November and possible regulatory reform. The firming of the marketplace for fuels will have a significant effect if its sustainable. Exxon’s recent purchase of XTO for $40 billion, to me, signifies future sustainability of natural gas and Exxon’s steady, unwavering forward movement in the Piceance Basin. Movement nationally to have natural gas as the re-powering choice of the coal electric generation fleet will also significantly firm the use and forward price of natural gas as well as natural gas emerging as the fuel of choice for powering electric generation to back up renewables. Locally, the government leadership needs to decide whether they are going to embrace energy development and conduct themselves in a manner consistent with prudent customer-service relationships and problem-solving techniques. The forum is a good thing and congrats to the chamber for hosting.”