Shane Cross, Western Energy Counsel, Sportsmen's Conservation Project

Howdy folks. I am Western Energy Counsel for Trout Unlimited. I work on energy issues, and primarily I work with oil and gas companies and policy makers to promote and support oil and gas development that protects the places we love to hunt and fish. When I tell people I am a lawyer, they often think that my job is to litigate or try cases. While that used to be true, here at TU I think that if I’m litigating I’m not doing my job very well. We believe that fish and wildlife and oil and gas development can all thrive together in the West. And it’s my job to help figure out how we can achieve high value in all three areas while working cooperatively.

We work with oil and gas companies in three primary ways. First, we communicate and collaborate on the front end of planning and policy. For example, when I’m going to submit comments on a Resource Management Plan, I’ll call up the operators I know in the area and identify my concerns before I submit the comments. More often than not, the operators can relate to our concerns and offer suggestions of how we can strengthen our comments while not putting unreasonable prohibitions on industry. This helps to build trust with industry and to identify ways we can work together. For instance, we recently co-signed a letter with the Colorado Oil and Gas Association asking the COGCC to prioritize inspections of wells near riparian areas.

Second, we partner with energy companies on restoration and reconnection projects.  Oil and gas companies often want to contribute to wildlife projects in the area they are operating or are required to undertake mitigation as part of a development. We can identify and provide opportunities for companies to contribute to these projects. In Routt and Moffatt County, Shell Oil recently contributed to and volunteered on two of Brian Hodge’s restoration projects, and we are evaluating a third project with XTO Energy.

Third, we seek to collaborate with oil and gas companies to recommend BMPs and areas to project during development projects. For example, in Lake Canyon, Utah, we worked with Berry Petroleum to identify and evaluate road access routes and BMPs for a development near a CRCT brood fishery. Berry was responsive to our concerns, implemented a closed loop drilling system, and communicated with us throughout the construction process. We are currently seeking similar partnerships in the Thompson Divide, Northwest Colorado, and Eastern Utah.

Energy companies also support our educational programs. Suncor contributes to Garrett’s Trout in the Classroom projects in Colorado, and ConocoPhillips has funded Conservation and Culture programs in New Mexico. Fish and wildlife and energy production are both vital to the West.

As a lifelong rancher, I understand that both energy development and fish and wildlife are vital to our way of life in the West. I am fortunate to work for an organization that recognizes the importance of collaboration, and am looking forward to working with you to continue to identify opportunities to partner with industry to protect our hunting and fishing.

--- Shane Cross, Western Energy Counsel, Sportsmen's Conservation Project, 307.359.3080