Decades of drilling

by Cally Carswell

After sharp declines in 2009, oil and gas drilling in the West was on the uptick again last year, due partly to rising oil prices and investment shifting away from the Gulf of Mexico. Colorado, New Mexico and California -- which all host oil plays -- saw significant new activity. Meanwhile, gains in Wyoming, where the Western gas boom hit hardest early in the decade, were barely noticeable. The '09 decline corresponded with increased gas well development in Eastern states overlying the Marcellus Shale, particularly Pennsylvania. But as 30 years of data from select regions nationwide show, the industry's booms and busts have never been solely a Western phenomenon -- nor are they as new to the East as they seem. When drilling peaked nationally in the early '80s, Ohio and Pennsylvania far outpaced any of the Rocky Mountain states. In recent history, though, no oil and gas patch anywhere has kept up with Texas.

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