Editorial: Prop 112 a poor idea
Faced with a whopping 15 ballot issues, Moffat County voters have a lot to think about in the run-up to the November election, but in our opinion, at least one of these issues should make for an easy choice.
Proposition 112, if approved by voters, would require that any new oil or gas development — including new fracking operations — be located at least 2,500 feet from any structure intended for human occupancy or any area designated “vulnerable.”
These “vulnerable” areas are defined as “playgrounds, permanent sports fields, amphitheaters, public parks, public open space, public and community drinking water sources, irrigation canals, reservoirs, lakes, rivers, perennial or intermittent streams, and creeks, and any additional vulnerable areas designated by the state or a local government,” according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.
Under existing law, such developments must be 1,000 feet from high-occupancy buildings, such as schools and hospitals; 500 feet from other occupied buildings, such as homes; and 350 feet from outdoor areas, such as playgrounds.
The setback requirements outlined in Proposition 112 would not apply to oil and gas development on federal lands.
Colorado Rising, the self-proclaimed “grassroots group of Coloradans” that is leading the campaign in support of the proposition, argues that, “currently, fracking operations are allowed to take place just 500 feet from a home and 1,000 feet from a school building (and right by school playgrounds). The industry has shown blatant disregard for public health and safety …”
On the other side of the issue is Protect Colorado, which, according to its website,
“… oppose(s) state and local ballot initiatives attempting to limit or ban oil and natural gas development, including any ban or restriction on hydraulic fracturing.”
While we understand the reasoning behind Colorado Rising’s support of the measure, we vehemently disagree with the measure, itself.
We take this position for a few reasons.
First, the measure would essentially ban new oil and gas developments in Colorado, a move that would be disastrous for the state’s economy, particularly the energy-dependent economies of its northern regions. Here in Moffat County, as well as in our neighboring counties, oil and gas development is an essential part of our livelihood, and these restrictions will bring the industry to its knees, potentially pushing many developers to leave the state.
Second, we’re tremendously concerned by the language used in the definition of “vulnerable” areas, particularly the phrase, “… and any additional vulnerable areas designated by the state or a local government.” This language is far too vague and suggests that any outdoor area could be subject to a subsequent declaration of vulnerability.
All in all, this is not a balanced approach. We agree that areas intended for human habitation and recreation should be protected from pollution, but Proposition 112 is akin to using a sledgehammer to swat a fly.
Moreover, the state already has an Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in place, an agency that includes environmental and reclamation specialists committed to ensuring the responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas natural resources, and from what we’ve seen, these professionals are doing a fine job of balancing environmental and economic concerns, despite Colorado Rising’s claims to the contrary.
We realize there are some who want oil and gas development out of the state, and Proposition 112 might be the first step in making this aim a reality. But these developments are crucial to this part Colorado, and we cannot sit idly by while groups attempt to cut the legs out from under our future prosperity.
The Moffat County Board of County Commissioners is against it, the Craig City Council is against it, Club 20 is against it, and we’re against it.
We try never to tell anyone how he or she should vote. We can offer only our opinion, and our opinion on this issue is clear: A vote against Proposition 112 is a vote for our continued wellbeing.