Protect Colorado – Give me a break! (Yes on 112)

When we ride our bikes north and east of Boulder you can see the gas and oil pipelines an extraction points at regular intervals. But it’s nothing like Texas. Very, Very few oil derricks, certainly in and around Erie, CO there are a number of fracking pad sites, you can see them clearly from Colorado State Highway 52, in places.

But there is nothing like the density I expected given the prominence of the Oil and Gas industry in the state politics. Even when you drive out through north east Colorado, wells yes, but still surrounded by massive areas of open farmland.

So when you see TV ads and claims like this, you have to wonder.

from the Protect Colorado PAC web site.

“extreme out-of-state groups” > “thousands of jobs” > “devastate Colorado’s economy for years to come” – All pretty extreme. I wondered.

But I wonder no more. As always the great folks over at CPR News covered this is much detail, there are lots of in-depth articles on their website. I found the Colorado Wonders segment on the radio by Energy and Environment reporter Grace Hood and presented with Journalist and Presenter Ryan Warner.

You can hear them discuss it in full here. It’s the first 12-minutes or so. To save time, and as a form of notepad, here are my notes.

  • The two main political action committees involved are Protect Colorado(Oil and Gas PAC) and Colorado Rising(Environmental PAC) 
  • Protect Colorado is outspending Colorado Rising by 32-1.
  • Depending on how you look at the land affected it could put 85% off limits if Prop.112 passes, or it could put only 54% off limits due to increased setbacks.
  • The 85% number comes from looking at surface land available for well pads. Except, as anyone who has watched the fracking industry for the last 10-years knows. Drillers can now drill underground and then go horizontal for upto 3-miles. Yep, so your fracking site can be setback 2500 feet from schools, hospitals etc. but they can still drill upto 3-miles underground. Stunning.

So thats who is involved and some numbers to get you started More interesting though are the claims for the impact on the Colorado economy. Here again Grace and Ryan have you covered.

Oil and Gas Industry Impact in Colorado Overall

  • 2014, the peak of the oil and gas boom, Oil and Gas accounted for only 7% of Colorado’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • 2016, a low for oil and gas, Oil and Gas contributed just 3% of GDP.
  • 2018 looks to be about 5% of GDP, and is the average over 10-years.

This sort of contribution doesn’t even put the Oil and Gas Industries in the top-10 list in Colorado. So much for the devastating impact.

But I hear you say. Oil and Gas contributes so much more. What about taxes?

  • Severance taxes(what Oil and Gas pays) from 2012-2017 were between $4-million and $265-million. Sounds a lot, but is less than 1% of the State budget.
  • Compared to other States, like Alaska, where the severance taxes make up more than 50% of the State budget.

Why the variation and swing in both GDP and Taxes from Oil and Gas? Because it’s all dependant on the price of crude oil and gas. While the oil price has been slowly rising, it’s nowhere near the 2013 peak.

Grace Hood makes the point in her answers that the numbers don’t include oil and gas service workers and service industries. One of which would be the truck drivers who truck water out to fracking sites. Then there are the people directly employed by the Oil and Gas Industry, that must be big?

  • Employment State-wide is circa 29,000 or just 1% of the workforce in Colorado.

Who Wins?

The last note I took while listening to the CPR News item was the biggest impact would be felt in Weld County. You can take the link to find out a bit more about Weld County, but here are some notes I looked up from Wikipedia.

  • Weld County has an estimated population as of 2017 of 305,000.
  • Weld County is the richest agricultural county in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, and the fourth richest overall nationally.
  • For a relatively rich county, the median family income is just $49,569. So the money is going where?
  • There are just 76 people per square mile in Weld County, compared to some 450 people per square mile in Boulder County and even more dense in urban areas and cities.

So while it’s easy to see that Weld County, if as populace as Boulder County, would suffer real financial hardship, given the population density and size of Weld County, it’s hard to image that the setbacks will be a real inhibitor there. Unless of course they are all out of sites and places to drill already. 

It’s easy to come to the conclusion that you should VOTE YES on Prop.112. I can’t vote as a non-citizen. The TV Commercials by “Protect Colorado” are pure unadulterated fear mongering. Sure, families and workers will be impacted if 112 pases, but hey, they’ll be impacted if the oil prices head south again. The boom and bust of the Oil Industry has been going on for decades, the setbacks won’t change that.

Protect Colorado doesn’t have a leg to stand-on with their extreme claims. I know most people who live near me would be horrified to find that a well pad 2-3 miles away was drilling underneath them. The setbacks are well deserved for safety in urban and more populous areas than Weld County and the like.

The appearance of impropriety [Boulder Weekly]

It’s still hard to imagine the whole Donald Trump Presidential run is serious, but it is. At the same many other communities are fighting, or trying to fight the Oil & Gas Industry over fracking; at the same time  a record-tying 5.6 magnitude earthquake took place in Oklahoma early Saturday morning and state officials have ordered the shutdown of 37 disposal wells used for fracking. Meanwhile, in Colorado, voters were unable to get meaningful measures to protect Colorado from the results of fracking.

What do these three have in common? Little on the face of it! In the current Boulder Weekly, before the Oklahoma earthquake, Joel Dyer writing an OpEd, captures in one article I think the dissatisfaction people feel with the current political system, but have been unable to express.

wreckball_590_476[1]If you take time to read the piece, don’t read about Colorado, don’t read about the failed fracking measure, read about the about the political system where everyone is an insider; and because of the way big money works, there is little difference between the people, the parties are just labels.That’s the frustration that I think most people feel.

Our state government has a very real credibility problem and it doesn’t matter if it is the result of impropriety or simply the appearance of impropriety, because both are equally destructive when it comes to the political process.

whatever you think of Clintons campaign, or Clinton personally it does matter if you believe what’s said about her, what matters is the appearance of impropriety. The opposite seems to be true of Trump, no matter how much he lies, because he is not seen as an insider, they are prepared to cut him some slack.

It doesn’t matter if you are a Boulder fractivist, a gun-rights proponent from Grand Junction, a religious conservative in Colorado Springs, an environmentalist in Durango or a fifth-generation farmer from the San Luis Valley, as long as the oil and gas industry and its millionaire backers are deciding who gets elected in this state, you lose.

This is bigger than any one issue. This is about whether we are going to choose to restore our democracy or continue to be governed by a handful of the state’s wealthiest individuals and corporations. And it’s our choice not theirs. So follow the money before you check that box on your ballot. It may be the most important thing you’ll do this year.

 

Source: When it comes to the Secretary of State’s office, the appearance of impropriety is a big deal – Boulder Weekly

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Chemistry | The Nation

This is bad news all around, but once again confirms there is no such thing as cheap energy. Fracking likely has many long term problems, no one saw this one coming though.

http://www.thenation.com/article/global-warming-terrifying-new-chemistry/

Fraccidents coming to a neighborhood near you, soon

The “Texas House Approves “Denton Fracking Bill”” aka HB40, marches closer being signed into law by Governor Abbott. All those places, like say, Austin, where fracking is something mostly invisible that happens way out west, need to wake up.

The bill at his heart, stops cities from banning fracking within the city limits. When fracking is out of sight, it’s mostly out of mind. Flying into Dallas Forth Worth airport this morning surprised me though at the scale of the problem. You can see from the following picture I took out the window of the plane, to many it’s already a reality.

Fracking 1

Which would all be fine if you are inclined to believe the industry, and that the earthquakes are coincidental, and the groundwater pollution is unrelated and the methane naturally occurring, you’d think you’ll be OK. With this State law in place, there is nothing to stop them fracking the Eagle shale in say Zilker Park or Auditorium shores. Seriously.

Of course, even if the earthquakes and methane laced water are not their problem, the frackers still have their issues, these are captured and documented on the earthjustice page. I’m left wondering though if these are all the accidents, or just those reported. If you cruise around some of the Texas County Roads it’s not unusual to find this sort of hastily laid pipe which crosses creeks on pieces of wood support, hastily strung under bridges, and generally, out of sight, out of mind, in this case County Rd 615 in Alvarado, Texas

Water, water everywhere…

It’s not the claim in this article, well researched and with many links that scare me that some 30 Texas towns are running out of water, that I find scary. I’m sure overtime, given the size of Texas there is some natural occurrence of this, and it can be measured and to some degree predicted.

What I find most concerning, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard it, but when you see it in writing on a respectable website, it really hits home. It’s this

We’ve got to get floods. We’ve got to get a hurricane to move up in our country and just saturate everything to replenish the aquifer,” he said. “Because when the water is gone. That’s it. We’re gone.

 

The quote is attributed to a Buck Owens, rancher. Owens reserved his anger for the contractors who drilled 104 water wells on his leased land, to supply the oil companies. Water levels were dropping in his wells because of the vast amounts of water being pumped out of the Edwards-Trinity-Plateau Aquifer, a 34,000 sq mile water bearing formation.

So, lets recap

  • Fracking has accelerated and is draining an Aquifer that is 34,000 sq miles
  • Texas is a Republican mostly “god fairing”, climate denying state
  • We are increasingly hoping for a god or natural disaster to save our water
  • Said natural disaster is likely to cause significant harm to the property and lives of many of its own residents to make a difference
  • The Republican state government in general doesn’t believe in big federal government, but isn’t past asking for our share of its disaster relief when it suits them.
  • Oil and gas from fracking is being shipped offshore to be sold on the international market, it doesn’t directly make us energy independent.
  • If fracking made us energy independent, we’d be preserving it and restricting it’s extraction for when we really need it
  • The reduction in fracking would at least give the aquifers a chance of refilling naturally.

Does anyone else see the conflict going on here?