Saturday, April 4, 2009



Due to mechanical problems with the state plane, coupled with today's weather, Gov. Ritter was unable to get to the Western Slope today.


He had been scheduled to deliver a luncheon speech at Club 20's Annual Spring Meeting, tour Phillips Machinery in Delta, and attend the Mesa County Democratic Party's Annual Spring Fling Dinner.


Below is the text of Gov. Ritter's remarks as prepared for Club 20. The remarks focus on the importance of Western Slope communities and businesses, and how the Western Slope fits into Gov. Ritter's statewide economic strategy for positioning Colorado for a strong and sustainable recovery.


Gov. Ritter also has directed his administration, particularly the Department of Natural Resources and the Office of Economic Development, to pursue opportunities that will help companies develop Colorado natural gas for use in Colorado and elsewhere.


Gov. Ritter's Remarks as Prepared for Club 20's Annual Spring Meeting

April 4, 2009 // Grand Junction


Thank you, Rikki, for that introduction. Thank you as well to Reeves Brown for continuing to lead Club 20 and for serving on our new Recovery Act accountability and oversight board.


Gatherings like this are important, especially in difficult economic times, so that we can share ideas, craft effective policies, and work together to lead the Western Slope and all of Colorado forward.


These are clearly tough economic times everywhere. Nearly every economic sector, industry, business and family is struggling. Colorado has lost more than 61,000 jobs in the last six months. Our unemployment rate is the highest it's been in more than 20 years.


At the state level, we are being forced to make some very difficult choices to cut $1.5 billion from the budget – choices I wish we didn't have to make. Without a doubt, tough times still lie ahead.


But I know Colorado will win the race out of the recession. I know we'll emerge stronger and be better positioned for the future because, together, we have established a long-term vision and strategy to get us there.


Just look at our advantages:


We've become a national and worldwide leader with our New Energy Economy. And let me be clear – Colorado's clean-burning natural gas sector is a key part of the New Energy Economy.


We have one of the best-educated workforces in the country.


Our universities and colleges are leading the way in developing careers in knowledge-based industries of the future like energy and aerospace and bioscience and technology.


We have one of the best tourism industries in the country because of the natural beauty and abundant wildlife right here on the Western Slope.


As I said a minute ago, we have abundant reserves of long-term, reliable natural gas right here on the Western Slope. If we develop these reserves in a sustainable way, we will help our country achieve energy security, and we'll help create sustainable economies and communities here on the Western Slope.


The West Slope will be a vital part of how our state moves ahead. Yes, the Western Slope and all of Colorado face incredible challenges, especially for families who have lost jobs or health care or homes.


I understand this from a very personal level. There were times when my dad, who was a construction worker and a farmer, couldn't find work and couldn't make any money. There were times when my mom put dinner on the table using food stamps.


I know what it's like. But even in these difficult times, we are still seeing bright spots and opportunities – because we put a strategy in place and we have a plan for coming out of this downturn.


The last time I was in Grand Junction was in late January, to celebrate Leitner Poma's move into a bigger state-of-the-art manufacturing facility – which will add 100 new jobs to the West Slope's workforce.


Later this afternoon I'm going to Delta to tour the new Phillips Machinery facility, where they make and repair mining tools and equipment.


And of course the oil-and-gas industry will continue to be one of the leading West Slope and Colorado industries for decades to come.


Last month, Williams Energy drilled its 3,000th well in Western Colorado, and the company is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on capital projects. Also last month, the state received a record 1,100 drilling permit applications, and companies already have 5,000 more permits in hand and ready to go in 2009. Clearly, they're planning for the future.


And this year, the new rules adopted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, developed with valuable input from many of you in this room, will help continue to create a reliable economic foundation for the entire Western Slope.


I believe these rules will allow the industry to grow and move forward in a sustainable, 21st century way that is compatible with other West Slope sectors like tourism and recreation. I believe these rules strike the right balance, a balance that recognizes the importance of a healthy industry and the importance of healthy communities, water supplies and wildlife.


Responsible and forward-thinking companies – big companies like Encana and Williams and smaller operators like Gunnison Energy – have already been true leaders in a best-practices approach to drilling and exploration. They embody the spirit of a sustainable Colorado these rules hope to achieve. And congratulations to Gunnison Energy for completing the first comprehensive energy development plan under the new rules – before the rules even took effect.


I know that these tough economic times have not spared any industry, including oil and gas. We all know there are bigger forces at work on the industry, forces like global commodity prices, pipeline capacity and a tight credit market. These forces are impacting rig counts all across the country.


Over the last seven months, rigs are down 64 percent in Utah and New Mexico, 57 percent in Texas and 52 percent in Colorado.


Recognizing all of this, I have directed my administration to move swiftly and strongly to help develop Colorado's natural gas for use here in Colorado and across the country.


We've asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to speed up approval of the Ruby Pipeline Project. We're working on legislation that would extend a hybrid vehicle tax credit to compressed natural gas cars and trucks. We're talking to the BLM about methane-capture opportunities for the proposed Red Cliff mine – a mine that could generate 250 new jobs.


We're talking with Xcel Energy about using the Cameo power plant as a pilot project for a 1 megawatt coal and concentrated solar facility.


We're talking to a natural-gas company called Clean Energy about filing a joint application with the Department of Energy for a $12.5 million grant. The grant would help build six natural-gas fueling stations around the state – including one in Grand Junction and one in Edwards – mainly for commercial vehicles such as trash trucks, buses and commercial fleets.


I'm optimistic about the future of the energy industry, the future of the Western Slope and the future of Colorado. Together, we're leading Colorado forward and positioning ourselves for a strong recovery.


We're going to see more than $7 billion flow to Colorado from the federal recovery act in direct funding and tax relief. Much of those funds are coming to the Western Slope, including:


·         $100 million for highway, transit and airport projects – including the airport in Grand Junction -- and $4 million for weatherization projects on the Western Slope.


·         $2 million for West Slope workforce development, youth and summer jobs programs, and job-training and re-training programs.


·         $11.5 million for higher-ed institutions on the Western Slope.


A few weeks ago I signed the FASTER transportation bill into law. This legislation will help us create thousands of jobs and fix unsafe roads and bridges, including 20 structurally deficient bridges on the Western Slope. Thank you to Sen. Dan Gibbs and Transportation Commissioner Doug Aden for working so hard on this.


We also are moving forward with some of my office's most important legislative proposals, specifically economic-development bills that will:


·         Provide incentives for companies to create new jobs;


·         Give small businesses direct access to credit and capital;


·         Let community colleges partner with businesses and industry sectors for job-training programs.


These are all part of our strategy for leading Colorado forward. There's no going back to the past or the old ways of doing business. This is a new era and a new time with new opportunities that we must capitalize on.


Working together, we can create sustainable jobs and sustainable communities so that Colorado emerges from the downturn stronger and more prosperous than ever.


Thank you so much for inviting me to be here today.