Below is my column that appeared in the August edition of The Best of Greeley.
In Weld County oil and gas is all of us
By Amy Oliver Cooke
Those of us who have the pleasure of living in Weld County know just how vital oil and gas is to our local community. Our relationship with the oil and gas industry isn’t us versus them. They are us.
Together, we serve as a role model for the rest of Colorado. We trust our friends, neighbors, and family members who work in the industry to extract our precious natural recourses while preserving the integrity of our water, air and way of life. And, so far, they haven’t let us down.
We’ve expressed concerns, and the industry has listened. Colorado’s regulations are the toughest in the nation. The industry takes extra precautions when operating in a flood plain. They disclose what is in fracking fluid. They abide by strict setbacks – siting wells 1,000 feet from high occupancy buildings like schools and hospitals. Spills are reported almost immediately. They’ve also done a good job of going above and beyond to mitigate sound, light and dust that are emitted from their sites. And when someone screws up, it’s a pretty hefty fine.
But oil and gas doesn’t just extract resources from the ground. Because they are us, they also give back.
The industry – everything from production to personal property – represents 66.21 percent of Weld County’s total assessed value. The property tax that oil and gas pays supports all of us, every municipality from Greeley to Keenesburg, every school district from Ault to Wiggins, every fire district, special district, and water district.
In addition, our kids get $3,000 scholarships to attend the college of their choice thanks to extra revenues from oil and gas production. Weld County schools have a brand new fleet of natural gas powered buses (donated by Noble Energy) that get kids safely to class and help the district save money on fuel.
Countless events and community groups from the Weld Food Bank to the Greeley Stampede to the County Fair to the Boys and Girls Club and the Red Cross get support from the companies that operate here. Many Weld County farmers enjoy royalty checks that help them buy much needed equipment, or simply keep their operations afloat.
That’s why ballot measures to ban the industry, all of us by default and drive us into economic ruin via draconian regulations leave me scratching my head.
It’s laughable that groups from New York City and Washington, D.C. claim to be protecting our communities! Apparently, they don’t think we can take care of ourselves. Remember, Weld County is the only county with no long-term debt and no sales tax, so we’re pretty good at managing our own affairs.
These elitist out-of-state activists are attempting to strip away private property rights with a 2,500-foot setback that would make 85 percent of Weld County off limits to new drilling and bleed up to 104,000 jobs over 15 years.
So when they ask me to sign a petition for one of these damaging initiatives, I thank them for using petroleum products to get them here and make their stay with us comfortable. Then, I politely decline because I stand with our friends, neighbors, and family members in the oil and gas industry. They are us.
Amy Oliver Cooke lives in Greeley and is the Executive Vice President of the Independence Institute and a member of the Energy Proud leadership team.