Guest Commentary: Colorado's other natural gas industry

By Joanna Underwood, for the Denver Post.

As prices fall, layoffs rise and controversies persist, the natural gas industry in Colorado is getting more contentious and smaller. But there is a way to renew its prospects that people on all sides of the issue should be able to agree on.

In-state gas production has fallen from its 2012 peak as key reserves like the Piceance Basin decline, with major companies pulling out or downsizing operations. Production is forecast to shrink by half a billion cubic feet daily for the next 12 to 18 months. That could mean thousands of lost jobs and slower economic growth.

There's no consensus in sight on expanding Colorado's gas production through fracking. The recommendations of Gov. John Hickenlooper's fracking task force are widely seen as insufficient to address communities' environmental and health concerns. That sets the stage for more confrontation between the gas industry vs. municipalities and environmentalists opposing fracking.

But what if the state could expand its gas production without polarizing its people, in a way that the industry and concerned citizens alike could support? It can, if we tap Colorado's organic waste stream to make renewable natural gas (RNG) fuel.