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Fear is a powerful tool until facts get in the way

Posted on 10/28/2019
Recently a letter was published in the Camera demanding Boulder County sue Weld County for the “damage to the health of residents and environment of Boulder County.” The letter contained emotionally charged and factually wrong comments, which only serve to fuel a politically-extremist machine that does nothing to advance the discussion about energy in a positive manner. So, we thought we would interject some facts in hopes of moving the dialogue forward.

Don’t get us wrong, we know we won’t change the minds of those who use this type of soundbite-driven narrative to further their agenda. For those individuals, there is no dialogue, no working together. There is only the desire to divide and shut out. This is for those who hear what this resident said and who question the validity of the statements.

First, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is doing exactly what their mandate dictates as it relates to Senate Bill 19-181. It is important to know that SB-181 was not designed to be a moratorium on oil and gas. If you thought otherwise, you didn’t listen to Gov. Jared Polis.

Second, there are just over 20,000 active wells in Weld County. Why is this important? Because it is impossible to have “33,000 fracking wells” when there aren’t 33,000 wells. More importantly, “fracking” is a process — a verb; “well” is an object — a noun. There are no fracking wells — wells are hydraulically fractured.

Third, the air in Boulder County is not poisoned. Air quality along the Front Range is an issue but one in which oil and gas is just one component — a surprisingly small component when you learn that approximately 70% of the total ozone sources in Colorado come from outside of the Environmental Protection Agency-designated non-attainment area. And of the 27-30% of ozone sources Coloradans can work to control, the Regional Air Quality Council states that automobile emissions are the biggest contributor to ozone precursors along the Front Range. The fact is, all industries and residents need to do their part continuously to improve air quality, including oil and gas, which has made great strides in reducing emissions over the years.

Fourth, every cause needs a boogeyman to strike fear in the masses in order to increase the base. The false health-related allegations often spouted by those opposed to oil and gas sound alarming. But where are the facts? According to a February 2017 study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, researchers concluded the risk of harmful health effects is low for residents living near oil and gas operations. They go on to state that studies of populations living near oil and gas operations provide limited evidence of the possibility for harmful health effects. If there were a correlation between adverse health effects and oil and gas, wouldn’t it make sense that those effects would be seen first here in Weld County? The reality is, while oil production in Weld County has increased by 12 times from 2002 and 2015, and natural gas production has increased three times, the rate of death from cancer has decreased by 1.9, respiratory illness has decreased by 9.1%, and heart disease has decreased by 21.4% throughout the county.

We’ve had it with the narrative that Weld County doesn’t care about health or the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. The residents of Weld County want what all residents in Colorado want: clean air, clean water, and a healthy place to raise our families … and that’s exactly what we have.

Signed by members of the Weld County Board of Commissioners: Chair Barbara Kirkmeyer and Commissioners Mike Freeman, Scott James, Steve Moreno and Sean Conway.