Entering the Frackas: Why now is the time for Colorado’s natural gas industry to start dealing

by Nick Zeller, 2013 Fall Intern

 

Well, score one for the Fracktivists.

Earlier this month, voters in three Colorado cities passed referenda prohibiting hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas (fracking) within their city limits.  For the months leading up to the election, a strip of urban centers along the Rockies north of Denver had become the epicenter of the energy battle in the West.  The oil and gas industry poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the elections, outspending their opposition, otherwise known as “fracktivists,” by as much as 40-to-1.

November’s results were one battle in what is likely to be a long, bloody war over the West’s gas deposits.   Natural gas seems to have found the first fight it can’t spend its way out of.  Fracktivists look at their victories and quickly declare the beginning of the end for the fracking industry.  However, as calls for a statewide ban echo throughout the capital but stop well short of the gas-heavy plains of Weld County, Coloradans have a rare opportunity to make (almost) everyone happy.

Most elected officials from the Centennial State don’t think we should ban fracking outright.  Rather, they believe what we need is reasonable development with more extensive regulation and oversight.  As long as safety for citizens and the environment can be ensured, natural gas means cheaper, much cleaner energy and a whole lot of jobs.  The technology is there; the problem is that not everyone uses it.  November’s ballot initiatives, however, were not aimed at making fracking safe, they banned it entirely.

There’s a solid chance that a statewide ban will be on the ballot in 2014, and while the margins would get tighter in a statewide election, the standard spend-to-win tactics can’t be counted on anymore.

In the long term, natural gas’s best chance is to team up with the state officials who want to regulate it.  Salvation lies in building a strong regulatory framework, capable of convincing Coloradans that wells are being fracked safely and expanded responsibly.  There is clearly willingness on the part of legislators to make this happen; they too want to see gas resources utilized.

Everyone may not win, but no one really loses.  Gas companies face increased regulatory costs, but continue to operate.   Coloradans living around new wells might see their property values dip, but they will also enjoy the cleaner air, cheaper energy, and the increased employment and tax revenue that comes with producing more natural gas.

A good compromise is what Colorado’s political climate needs.  After slogging through a contentious gun control battle, the resulting recalls, and a fledgling secessionist movement’s birth and death, conciliation should be a priority.  Establishing successful public-private cooperation can create a meaningful and workable framework for responsible natural gas production.  It also means bridging the growing gap between urban and rural communities and providing a model for other gas-rich states to follow.

Colorado’s legislature convenes January 8th, 2014.  Time to get to work.

Entering the Frackas: Why now is the time for Colorado’s natural gas industry to start dealing

by Nick Zeller, 2013 Fall Intern
 
Well, score one for the Fracktivists.
Earlier this month, voters in three Colorado cities passed referenda prohibiting hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas (fracking) within their city limits.  For the months leading up to the election, a strip of urban centers along the Rockies north of Denver had become the epicenter of the energy battle in the West.  The oil and gas industry poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the elections, outspending their opposition, otherwise known as “fracktivists,” by as much as 40-to-1.
November’s results were one battle in what is likely to be a long, bloody war over the West’s gas deposits.   Natural gas seems to have found the first fight it can’t spend its …

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