By: Regina Thomson
Residents of Loveland recently voted against a citywide ban on the energy extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” Far from being a local matter, their decision to reject the two-year drilling moratorium could have dramatic consequences for millions of Americans.
As a result of techniques like fracking, the energy industry has quickly become an indispensable source of job growth and economic vitality – particularly in Colorado. By compromising the sector, local fracking restrictions threaten the livelihoods of middle-class families who have benefited most from Colorado’s energy boom.
Loveland’s vote marks a turning point in the fight against such destructive policies.
The ballot initiative in Loveland comes amid a flurry of voter-imposed fracking restrictions being adopted throughout the state. Bans and moratoriums on the drilling practice are currently in place in Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins, Lafayette and Longmont.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association is challenging many of these measures in court. And earlier this month, two citizens in Lafayette filed a class-action lawsuit against Gov. John Hickenlooper and COGA, seeking to protect the town’s fracking ban.
It’s tempting to cast such disputes as a fight between a powerful industry and everyday citizens. Indeed, the Lafayette residents behind the class-action lawsuit argue that they are protecting their “community, its families and property” against the forces of “corporate privilege.”
But those who stand to lose the most from these anti-fracking efforts aren’t wealthy energy executives; they are workers, farmers, and middle-class families across the state.
Over the past decade, Colorado’s $25 billion energy sector has become an essential component of our economy, one that supports more than 200,000 state jobs. The recent success of this industry is a direct result of breakthroughs in drilling techniques.
In fact, thanks largely to hydraulic fracturing, Colorado’s oil production nearly tripled since 2005, while natural gas production has risen by half. Today, about 95 percent of new oil and gas wells in our state are developed through fracking, according to the Bureau of Land Management.
Hydraulic fracturing, in other words, is at the center of Colorado’s thriving energy sector. Towns that take away this critical tool for energy extraction are willfully disabling an indispensable state industry, endangering hundreds of thousands of state jobs – not to mention driving up the price of energy for Colorado residents.
And despite claims that anti-fracking activists are protecting their neighbors’ property, drilling bans actually prevent mineral-owning households from accessing their most valuable assets.
Many of Colorado’s 600,000 mineral owners – which include farmers, ranchers, and retirees – depend on royalties from those resources just to get by.
Faced with a fracking ban, some, like farmer Cristy Koeneke, will have little choice but to sell their land. “My family had been just eking out a living in rural Colorado in past generations,” she said, “and without our royalty income, we would have had to sell our land to developers.”
By recognizing the enormous value the energy industry provides, Loveland voters scored an important victory for families like Koeneke’s – and not just here in Colorado. Since our state is the chief battleground in the national fracking fight, negative consequences of our state’s drilling bans are felt nationwide. Already, more than 75 towns in New York have enacted bans, as have cities in California, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
If the nationwide trend toward local fracking restrictions continues, it could quickly derail a domestic energy boom that currently supports more than 2 million American jobs and is expected to produce 3.3 million more by 2020, according to research group IHS. By 2025, the firm predicts, lower energy prices will help increase the disposable income of the average household by $3,700.
And so, when Loveland residents rejected the fracking ban, they weren’t just voting on a local issue, or even on Colorado’s economic future. They were helping to protect an energy boom that promises to improve the lives of middle-class Americans for decades.
Regina Thomson is president of Colorado Issues Coalition.
Read more at http://gazette.com/guest-column-lovelands-fracking-vote-not-just-a-local-matter/article/1536491#1bgjXYSVUijbpGL4.99