I’ve lived in Colorado for 17 years and held jobs in land conservation and economic research. When attending family holiday dinners with friends living east of Colorado Springs, I’ve noticed fracking becoming a frequent conversation topic. Folks express concern their property values will drop as fracking wells move closer, and they worry the pollution involved will impact their health. I’m pleased to know many will join me to vote YES on Proposition 112 this November to protect their properties and their health.
Hydraulic fracturing (i.e. fracking) is natural gas extraction that involves adding chemicals to large amounts of fresh water (more than 4 billion gallons each year in Colorado) and injecting the mix deep into the ground to release gas deposits. Much of that water becomes permanently contaminated and can never be recycled or reused. Fracking processes also release carcinogenic chemicals into the air. The closer you are to a well, the more likely you are to inhale neurotoxins like benzene.
When I worked in the investment industry, I was involved in requesting fracking companies disclose the chemicals used in their operations, so that we as investors could evaluate risk. What were the risks we wanted to evaluate? The very risks to public health and the environment that Proposition 112 helps mitigate.
In 2017, researchers from the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Health found that children ages 5–24 diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia were three to four times as likely to live near fracking wells than kids diagnosed with other types of cancer. A 2014 study by University of Colorado researchers correlates a 30 percent increase in congenital heart defects in infants born to mothers living in areas with high densities of fracking wells.
Wells now can be built as close as 500 feet to a home and 1,000 feet to a school. Proposition 112 is a common-sense measure to require new fracking wells be setback to a safer distance of 2,500 feet from homes, schools, hospitals, and sensitive environmental areas like water sources.
Proposition 112 is not a ban on fracking. New wells will still be built on public and private lands as the industry expands its operations, and the underground fracking process can reach over 15,000 feet horizontally.
Proposition 112 is not a constitutional amendment. As a statutory measure, it’s “we the people” passing a law to protect our neighborhoods, our families, and our property rights.
Opponents of Proposition 112 often mention projected future state and local taxes that oil and gas companies might pay. What such arguments miss is that we taxpayers heavily subsidize the oil and gas industry through tax breaks, incentives, and regulatory exemptions. When pollution occurs, taxpayers often foot the cleanup bill. And when family members get sick, our communities bare the burden of increased healthcare costs.
It simply isn’t true that Colorado’s economy depends on fracking. The oil and gas industry provides only about 1 percent of Colorado jobs, while tourism contributes more than 11 percent. Our economy does depend on tourism, and views of fracking wells, combined with water and air pollution, put our tourism industry at risk.
Passing Proposition 112 keeps wells farther from tourists and helps protect the natural resources on which our economy truly depends.
Our economy also depends on having a healthy workforce. The health of our children and of ourselves is foundational to our prosperity and freedom.