Monday, October 1, 2018

Colorado Proposition 112 Will Be A Brutal 'Wake Up' Call For State's Oil Shale Frackers!

Shale oil fracking in Colorado has presented enormous dangers for inhabitants of our state and nothing clarified the need to increase distances between oil and gas wells and neighborhoods more than the home explosion in Firestone nearly 18 months ago that killed two men. The incident was blamed on a leaky flowline from a nearby well that hadn’t been capped properly.   
Now, what many portray as an existential battle for the "soul" of the state is nearing resolution as the November midterm elections approach. This concerns Proposition 112 - known during  the petition process as "Initiative 97", which adherents insist will bring long sought sanity to neighborhoods throughout the state.
 If it works as planned it will bolster the health and safety of tens of thousands of state residents living above or on the edge of Colorado's increasingly fossil-fuel industrialized landscape. The statewide ballot measure would dramatically increase the distance ("offsets")  from homes as well as waterways for new oil and gas wells.   However, standing opposed are a coterie of oil and gas allies who use insane PR ploys to try to terrify state residents into compliance with their frack happy images for the future. For example, they claim it will cost "147,000 jobs"  and "deprive cities and towns of millions of dollars in tax revenues".  

The truth? The loss of 147,000 jobs is wildly overblown. According to the University of Colorado's Leeds School of Business'  Economic Outlook, there were roughly 26,100 jobs in natural resources and mining in 2018.  That number of workers could easily be integrated into the state's burgeoning marijuana industry.  (In fact, the number includes not only oil and gas workers but also coal and metals mining. There were actually only 11,5000 jobs for oil and gas operations.)

Oh, another complaint is that Prop. 112 will  "rob thousands of mineral rights owners of access to their underground property" (Clarification: Some guy named 'Bubba' in the early days of development of a community bought up tracts A, B and C in a current development.  You now happen to live on tract A.  But Colorado law states that while you own the surface area, e.g. lawn etc., Bubba is the owner of anything found underneath, including any minerals, oil or gas. And so, he can extract those goodies anytime he desires.

These are the opposing narratives Colorado voters will have to resolve on November 6th. 
The real nexus of the clash, of course, is between the yen for the shale drillers to go on reaping their climate -destroying treasure and the state's ongoing population boom .     Given these colliding forces - increased population vs, increased drilling. - it was inevitable something would have to give. 
The graphic shown above basically encapsulates the issues as one beholds the far flung oil drilling active wells.  So given all the new people  (estimated half million since 2008) that have moved to the state, bought new homes - many very expensive - it was expected they'd not find proximate drilling activity conducive to their property values. (And many only learned of the activity after they moved in.)  
So there is an existential collision: On the one hand the people having moved to the state in search of quality of life, versus the intensifying hunt by fossil fuel companies for the resources  (natural gas and shale oil) that power modern life. The central question at the heart of the collision: Economy or citizen health? is quickly becoming a high stakes battle - especially in the governor's race.   That pits pro-fracker GOP candidate Walker Stapleton against Jared Polis, who advocates for sensible offsets and more local control of drilling activity.  
For perspective, the state currently requires oil and gas wells to be located at least 500 feet from buildings and 350 feet from recreation areas like playgrounds. The  Prop. 112 ballot initiative would increase those setbacks to nearly half a mile. Effectively, this would ban drilling  on 85 percent of the state's nonfederal public land, according to an analysis by state regulators.
All this has been used by the fracking industry to fan hysteria, while not informing people there are already nearly 50,000 wells in the state and also that the passage of 112 would not affect offsets of the existing wells.  
In terms of economic effect, the REMI Partnership - a nonprofit research group projects that if the measure passes it will reduce state and local revenue by $201 million to $258 million in the first year. It will also result in the loss of 33,500 to 43,000 jobs.  As I already showed above such job loss exaggerations are absurd given oil and gas fracking accounts for barely 1 percent of all Colorado jobs.
One thing for certain: Colorado voters will have to keep their bullshit detector caps on tight as November 6th approaches!

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