Mike Lawrence: Series starts Friday | SteamboatToday.com

Mike Lawrence: Series starts Friday

Just a shameless plug for a powerful topic

Mike Lawrence

In retrospect, maybe we should have used a smaller lens. Or called first.

But after Pilot & Today photographer Brian Ray and I parked on the side of a public road near Parachute, in front of a natural gas processing plant, and starting taking pictures – Brian leaning over the hood of his Jeep and snapping away with a telephoto lens, and me scribbling into a notebook – it took about two minutes for the truck to pull up.

The white pickup sat just a few yards in front of us, idling. We were out in the sticks of rural Colorado as the sun dipped below the mountaintops, with no other cars or people in sight. No driver emerged from the pickup.

I waited for a shotgun barrel to poke out of the truck’s window. It didn’t happen.

So I walked up to the driver, introduced myself and started what became a very friendly conversation.

“We’ve been instructed to stop and see what’s going on anytime we see something suspicious,” explained the driver, who turned out to be an environmental specialist at the plant.

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We are indeed a nation at war.

The driver cited homeland security concerns when questioning our photos. I responded that they were taken from a public road, and handed the driver a business card. He gave me the phone number of the company’s spokeswoman and deftly turned aside my attempts to ask him questions about the plant. We parted amicably.

Last week, Williams energy company officials took us on a tour of a drilling rig and their operations in the Parachute area.

“In some ways, we blame ourselves for not having done proactive education,” Williams spokeswoman Susan Alvillar said. “We need to be as transparent as possible – you can see (gas operations) from the side of the highway, so we might as well explain it.”

And that sums up the intent of our five-week series, “Power Play.” The special series seeks to explain as much as we can about the enormous energy rush – coal, oil, natural gas, renewables, etc. – that is pouring into Colorado.

The series will run every Friday for the next five weeks. We hope you enjoy it and learn a thing or two along the way. Like how Williams has drilled 1,800 gas wells in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, plans to drill 500 more in each of the next three years, and spends more than $1 million a week leasing rigs to drill the holes. And how abandoned oil wells between Steamboat Springs and Hayden are being revived.

And how to (sometimes) call first before you start shooting photos.

– To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com