BOBBY MAGILL

Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a senior science writer for Climate Central in New York and a journalist who has covered fracking and the environment in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001. 

Defining the Friction Between Oil and Water in North Park

Back in September, in a story for the Fort Collins Coloradoan, I wrote that new oil and gas development is popping up all around North Park in northern Colorado, and anglers are concerned the development could damage trout fisheries in the area. Some of that development is part of the Niobrara shale exploration boom occurring throughout eastern Colorado and Wyoming. Today, I received a call from the National Wildlife Federation, whose photo (below) puts a new perspective on how oil and gas development in North Park can have a direct effect on the rivers, streams and water quality of Jackson County, which is known for its world-class fly fishing. The NWF is concerned that the proximity of the Moore State oil well, which was being drilled in September, to the Michigan River could degrade its water quality.

Jackson, one of Colorado's most remote and rural counties, is about 80 miles west of Fort Collins and is wedged between the Medicine Bow Mountains and the Park Range, bordering Wyoming to the north. It's an area as beautiful as it is partly dependent on the oil industry for its economic prosperity.

This is the same well as seen from Highway 14 in late September:

The Niobrara shale exploration boom is making a significant economic and environmental splash throughout eastern Colorado and Wyoming. The public radio program "State of the Re:Union" broadcast a fascinating show this week about the changes southern Wyoming is undergoing as the drilling in the Niobara changes landowners' relationship to the land they own. Many of those landowners may own the surface rights to their land, but not the mineral rights, creating a "split estate" and a problem for those who don't want oil rigs on their land. They may have little control over whether and how their land is drilled. The issue is part of the third segment of the episode, which is well worth a listen.