What You’ll Hear About Fracking
and What You Should Know
YOU SHOULD KNOW that modern “unconventional” drilling is not your grandfather’s fracking method. This very industrial, multi-well, horizontally-drilled, high-pressure operation using incredibly toxic chemicals and high volumes of water has only been in widespread use for just over 16 years. The other huge problem is that “fracking” is happening on a much larger scale and is now much closer to our communities than it was in the past.
YOU SHOULD KNOW that there are more than 700 peer-reviewed studies on the impacts of fracking, and most of them were published in the last 3-5 years. Of the studies looking specifically at health impacts, more than 80% document risks or actual harms. Just as the chemicals involved in “fracking are varied, the health impacts are varied and range from stress, headaches, nosebleeds and asthma to long-term impacts like increases in heart disease, endocrine disruption and disorders, cancers, congenital birth defects, and permanent brain damage to children. “Fracking is especially hazardous to infants and children.
YOU SHOULD KNOW that Colorado’s regulations are actually quite weak. In fact, Colorado’s rules are designed to promote the industry and have very little to do with health and safety. The state is, in fact, challenging a Colorado Court of Appeals decision that says the state must protect health, safety, and the environment before allowing oil and gas drilling. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of spills, fatal accidents, tank explosions, etc., with minimal penalties and almost non-existent enforcement. Oil and gas companies are allowed to remove the oil and gas and then leave Colorado without cleaning up drill sites, leaving taxpayers to pay.
YOU SHOULD KNOW that job losses are used as a scare tactic. The number of jobs in question and the economic benefits are greatly overstated. Including related businesses, oil and gas employs less than 1% of the state’s workforce. Colorado’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the nation and has dropped even lower even as oil and gas laid off workers in the past few years. Many positions are filled by workers from out of state, so these jobs are not helping Coloradans. On top of that, oil and gas jobs are extremely dangerous with deaths and injuries a common occurrence in Colorado. In contrast, tourism accounts for over 11% of Colorado jobs, with some of those jobs at risk from the negative consequences of fracking.
YOU SHOULD KNOW that Colorado’s economy is diverse, and not dependent on a single industry. If anything, Colorado should avoid becoming dependent on a boom-and-bust industry like oil and gas extraction. As the amount of available oil/gas dwindles and becomes unprofitable to extract (compared to renewable energy), “fracking” will become a dead-end industry. It is not something the state or its workers should rely on. In fact, economies that do not rely on mining or extractive industries are shown to do better economically in the long run. Moving to a sustainable, green economy will produce more long-term jobs, increased economic benefits and lead to better environmental outcomes. Something else to know is that many oil and gas operators in Colorado have been operating at a loss, continuing to drill new wells at a frantic pace to pay their debts as the productivity of old wells diminishes. This is unsustainable and bad economics.
YOU SHOULD KNOW that because of several tax breaks and court-ordered refunds, the state is currenly giving more money to the industry than it is receiving in severance taxes. Colorado has one of the lowest effective severance tax rates in the nation, and the resulting income to the state is as volatile as the industry itself. All of this comes at a time when the need for oil and gas severance tax revenues is greatest: to pay for more inspectors, to map flowlines (as demonstrated by the Firestone explosion), and to plug hundreds of abandoned wells at $82,500 each, with more abandoned wells likely. There is also a time lag on getting this money to impacted counties. Taxpayers are stuck with the burden of mounting costs for road repair and construction, healthcare, emergencies, and drill site clean-up. Some groups report that drilling is actually a net loss for their county.
YOU SHOULD KNOW that prices for gas and oil are determined by the world market, not determined locally. Gas and oil commodities will be sold to the highest bidder, so if the world market is willing to pay more, the prices will rise, period.
YOU SHOULD KNOW that although most of us do use oil and gas for transportation and to heat our homes, many of us partly mitigate this by driving energy efficient cars, owning solar panels, recycling and conserving resources. Just because humanity has become dependent on this one dangerous and inferior form of energy does not mean that we shouldn’t do everything we can to end this unhealthy reliance, especially once we’ve become aware of its destructiveness. Besides, knowing you’re doing something wrong, and continuing to do it that way, because that’s what you’ve always done in the past- is no rational way to solve a problem. Colorado has abundant sun and wind, and it is simply not necessary to place oil and gas wells next to our homes and schools in order to transition to clean energy.
YOU SHOULD KNOW that oil and gas produced in Colorado is often owned or controlled by foreign corporations or out-of-state entities and will be sold to the highest bidder: it does not necessarily get used by the United States. Even with runaway fracking and development, the U.S. is not currently energy independent; we import more oil and petroleum products than we export, and predictions on energy independence vary widely. At what price? Our health? Our homes? Our land? True energy independence will come when we use locally produced renewable energy and are no longer dependent on refineries. It is not necessary to place oil and gas wells next to Colorado homes and schools to get there.
YOU SHOULD KNOW that, while mineral rights are sometimes owned by those who own the surface rights, they are more often owned by investors, developers, or by the oil and gas companies themselves. Mineral rights owners seem to expect guaranteed profits from their investments, but there are inherent risks to all investments. They are not entitled to guaranteed profits at the expense of peoples’ health and safety. You don’t have the right to use your property to harm your neighbor or your neighbor’s property, but that is exactly what happens with oil and gas development.
YOU SHOULD KNOW that this theory has been proven completely wrong. With the high rates of gas leaks being observed, “fracking” for natural (or fracked) gas is worse for climate change than coal. Methane is the primary component of fracked gas, and methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide rates have fallen, just as methane rates have spiked. Not only that, but the money spent on conversion to fracked gas is money that could have been spent on cost-effective renewable alternatives. Also, in much of Colorado, “fracking” is primarily done to produce shale oil, not fracked gas. So the product what is being extracted from Colorado is not the bridge fuel gas that people people erroneously thought would battle climate change.
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Fracking is harming much of what we all love about living in Colorado and why so many people like to visit – the fresh air, clean water, beautiful landscapes and a safe place to raise our families.