Editorial: The big story that wasn’t in 2012

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Many of us in the newsmedia business like to sit down, individually or with our staffs, in December and engage in some wide-ranging analysis, looking back at the past 12 months and forward at what to expect in the year ahead.

We’ve already begun doing that at the Business Journal, as you can see in this issue with our Focus package on “people who shaped the year” of 2012 in the Pikes Peak region. You’ll see more wrapups and projections on these pages in the next few weeks as we head into 2013.

Part of the process involves remembering what we were imagining a year ago, if only to see how clairvoyant we were. Last December, much of what would come in 2012 was obvious. We knew that elections would be dominant, and closer to home, we knew that the future of Memorial Health System would come to a head.

But we missed on one issue, which we thought for sure would turn into a continuing, major headline-producer for the Colorado Springs area.

We thought oil and gas drilling would turn us all into amateur geologists by now, following the developments of exploration in rural east and southeastern areas of El Paso County as well as Banning Lewis Ranch inside city limits.

It hasn’t happened.

Several wells on county land have been started during the back half of the year, and the first actual fracking in our area should start sometime in late December. That well, located east of Colorado Springs (north of Colorado Highway 94, near Peyton Highway), is being drilled by Houston-based Hilcorp Energy Co.

So here we are, in the final days of 2012, still unsure about the success of early drilling in the county, still not knowing whether we’ll see a major local economic impact from oil and/or natural gas, and still waiting for the first fracking project to start.

Meanwhile, opposition to fracking — even drilling, inside the city limits — has become more organized in recent weeks. City Council has decided to put off until February a final vote on regulations that, if implemented, actually could clear the way for drilling anywhere inside Colorado Springs. (It should be said, there have been no indications so far of any possible drilling other than on the city’s eastern edges.)

This doesn’t mean the story is going away. Our expectations were simply premature. Rest assured, oil and gas drilling will become a bigger deal for this region in 2013, and we also should begin learning results of whether drilling and fracking will succeed here.

We want to continue helping raise the local awareness, which is why we’ve included this subject — along with health care and sequestration/fiscal cliff effects — on the agenda for our first “Breakfast with the Journal” event on Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the Antlers Hilton (details at csbj.com/events). One of the speakers will be Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway of Greeley, where drilling already has helped that area’s economy. Conway, a small-business owner, formerly was chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, and one of Conway’s daughters graduated from Colorado College.

That event, along with further coverage and developments, should help set the stage for turning what wasn’t a big deal in 2012 into much more in the year ahead.