It was my privilege and honor to be asked to accompany a select group of concerned Elbert citizens to attend a meeting with the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday, November 23, 2011. The meeting was arranged by Jill Duvall, the Coordinator for the Elbert County Oil and Gas Interest Group (ECOGIG), and ECOGIG member, Tony Corrado. Accompanying our group for this meeting was Terri Coulter, an insurance agent working for Farmer's Union Insurance Company. The intended purpose of the meeting was to formally introduce ECOGIG to the Department of Natural Resources and express the concerns that the the membership of ECOGIG have in regards to the impending oil and gas boom in Elbert County. Since groundwater, oil and natural gas all fall under the auspices of this department, the importance of this meeting can not be understated.
As most of you are aware, until recently very little commercial development has manifested itself in Elbert County. Too dry for large scale agricultural pursuits, no infrastructure for manufacturing, and an abysmal system of roads have served to squelch most new enterprises. That said, the clouds of change are building on the horizon, and by the looks of it, we are in for epic upheaval in our daily lives. It is inevitable that an economic metamorphosis is coming soon and while some will be prepared, all too many will be swept away. If you have not visited Weld County's rural areas in the last five years or so, take a drive for a glimpse of just what Elbert County might look like in the near future.
There is an immense geological stratum under Elbert County. It is called the Niobrara Shale Formation. Beneath our county, at depths of anywhere from 3,000 to 14,000 below the earth's surface, is a shale rock layer. It is the remnant of a once great inland sea. It is vast in size and stretches from Northern Colorado to Northwest Kansas. It reaches up into parts of Nebraska and Wyoming. Oil and natural gas reside in this formation in abundant quantities. It is in the Niobrara Formation, underneath our pristine groundwater aquifers, that the contentious drilling method of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is already occurring. While no one can argue that America needs energy, the jury is still out on just how much damage the wholesale drilling of the Niobrara will cause.
Laws regarding natural resources are old and they give the owners of the rights to develop them great powers. The West was won by courageous and hardworking people who were eager to get land. However, it took more than these brave souls to open up and tame the interior of the fledgling nation. It also took money from the captains of industry, and they were very adept at making demands on the territorial governments that needed an influx of people to jumpstart their futures. Railroad companies in particular commanded lots of the mineral rights that surrounded their purposed corridors. Colorado, and in particular, the Front Range, gave up much of its mineral rights to the Railroad Companies in exchange for the promise to bring people and products inland to the center of the United States.
Today, those rights are still driving the expansion. The following excerpt is from the Anadarko WEBSITE
Our November 23rd meeting was held on the eighth floor of the Division of Resources Building at 1313 Sherman St. Representing the Governor was Mike King, the Executive Director for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Ginny Brannon, the Assistant Director for Water and Energy. For purposes of clarity and brevity, Tony Corrado was our presenter and we followed his topic outline.
The discussion was broken into several components. The first part focused on why ECOGIG was there. Tony outlined just how much upheaval there had been recently in Elbert County due to the proposed expansion plans of the Elbert & Highway 86 Commercial Metropolitan District. Mr. King was very familiar with Elbert County struggles but seemed to be somewhat surprised at the notion that the proposed pipeline was anything more than a conduit for water from the Arkansas River into the county. It was a seemingly new piece of information that Karl Nyquist had designs on pumping groundwater out of Elbert County.
Mr. Corrado drove home the point that the people of Elbert County were concerned about potential groundwater contamination from what he referred to as "Fraccidents" (any contamination whether it relates to the drilling, storing, transportation or cleanup of petroleum products associated with the process of hydraulic fracturing drilling). In the opinion of ECOGIG leadership, the sudden interest in Elbert County water was most certainly a result of the pressure to supply water to large oil producers. Tony was very careful to point out to our hosts that while we were not unsympathetic to the State of Colorado's impending budgetary woes, that we were clearly siding with the growing number of citizens and environmental scientists who say that the benefits of gaining these natural resources are outweighed by the damage that is incurred in the extraction process.
"As an incentive to induce investors to build a transcontinental railway, The Pacific Railway Act of 1862 created the Union Pacific Railroad Company and granted the company fee and mineral interests along the corridor through which it passed. Subsequent amendments to the act granted "ten alternate sections per mile on each side of said railroad, on the line thereof, and within the limits of twenty miles on each side of said road ..."

Coal-discovered and developed along this land grant corridor-fueled the expansion of the West beginning in 1868. Today, coal is still being mined on the land grant, which supplies energy to produce electrical power to the region.

The world's largest deposit of trona, a mineral used to produce soda ash, is located along the land grant corridor, generating royalty and equity income.
by Robert Thomasson
Today Anadarko holds approximately 7.5 million acres of fee mineral rights from this original grant, located in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. These lands contain significant resources of coal, trona, limestone, titanium, zeolite, oil shale and diamonds. The minerals group promotes the development of these resources, and manages the income and cash flow streams to help fund the growth of our oil and natural gas operations."