Guest opinion: 2,000-foot setback would drive industry out
I feel it is appropriate to respond to the Guest Opinion by Leslie Robinson and Dave Devanney, “O&G task force is ignoring health evidence,” that ran in this paper Feb. 6.
I agree that protecting the health and safety of Colorado citizens is paramount. In fact, I would go as far as to say that there are few who would disagree with the statement.
However, to say the governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force “refused” to consider any setback recommendations is factually inaccurate and intentionally misleading. The task force’s mission is to strike a healthy balance between industry and concerned stakeholders, not disregard facts and science and cater to emotion and rhetoric.
Colorado already has a mandated setback of 500 feet. That’s nearly the length of two football fields. Not only is this setback in line with most other states/cities, in many cases it is larger. A 500-foot setback has been deemed adequate to protect public health, while not amounting to an unacceptable taking of private property. I hope those are the facts the O&G task force are considering in their decision-making.
Unfortunately, it appears the goal of groups like Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Battlement Concerned Citizens is not a reasonable setback, as they claim, but rather to propose setback requirements that ultimately drive industry out of Colorado. This would have negative impacts on our economy and cause additional hardships to landowners and citizens who ultimately lose the ability to enjoy potential uses and monetary gains of their private property due to arbitrarily imposed regulations.
A 2,000-foot setback (nearly seven football fields) would have catastrophic implications on Colorado families. A University of Colorado Leeds School of Business study found that it would shut down 50 percent of new energy exploration in Colorado, amounting to an annual economic loss of $6.4 billion to our state and equating to more than $3,000 per family in lost income.
Lastly, for those who have questions or concerns about the industry or specific operators, there is an option available.
Community Counts is a community-based nonprofit, available 24/7, designed to offer residents a timely resource for open and respectful dialogue when they have issues, concerns or questions with a proven record of effective conflict resolution. This program would have made a great resource for the individuals who were anonymously referenced in the previous op-ed. If you have an issue, call the organization at 1-866-442-9034.
Having arbitrary mandates isn’t the answer. Rhetoric isn’t the answer. The best-case scenario is to work cooperatively on potential concerns case by case. This is what many of us refer to as the “West Slope Way.”
The benefits of a flourishing industry are far-reaching. From cement companies to flower shops, to hotels and local adventure parks to our schools, libraries, farms and everything in between, the positive impacts from the energy industry cannot be ignored.
I hope the governor’s O&G task force does everything it can to provide thoughtful options that strike a healthy balance between industry and those concerned with energy development. However, I cannot help but fear that this process and all the hard work that has gone into it is going to be hijacked by those who intend to force these issues to the ballot no matter the cost based on their inflexible agendas.
Keira Bresnahan is chairwoman of the Piceance Energy Action Council.
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