Printed letters, February 7, 2014
I felt obligated to respond to the notion that the oil and gas industry in Colorado is simply a fly-by-night industry, as its recent actions in our state indicate otherwise.
This notion isn’t an accurate depiction of the situation here in Colorado, especially as it pertains to the oil and gas industry’s long-term future in the state.
Why would those in the industry be investing billions every year in infrastructure, research and production if they planned on just uprooting all at once?
On top of that, why would oil and gas companies leave such an energy-rich state, given the energy production methods (like fracking) that we are now using to access vast, untapped reserves of the precious oil and natural gas that will lead our country to energy independence?
The answer, of course, is that they don’t plan on leaving, because they understand Colorado’s enormous potential for sustained energy development.
This is, despite one recent letter writer’s claims, a stable industry, one that provided $30 billion in economic activity, $1.6 billion in tax revenues and more than 110,000 jobs to our state last year.
The tremendous advances we’ve made with fracking and other production technologies mean that our state will be able to produce significant amounts of energy for many years and that energy will continue to serve as an essential cog in Colorado’s economic engine.
Oil and gas workers are our friends, families and neighbors, and casting them as transient profiteers does a disservice to both them and an industry that provides our state with remarkable economic, environmental and energy benefits.
The only thing that could drive this critical industry from our state would be bans on fracking and other production technologies, backed by extremists wholly opposed to production of energy sources with which they don’t agree.
Valley’s pollution takes toll on produce, as well as people
As a relative newcomer to the Grand Valley who chose to make this area home because of its natural beauty and community amenities, I was dismayed by the air-quality issues of the last two winters.
Beyond the ugliness of the smog and its negative effects on human health, as an agricultural economist, I knew that there were also negative effects on agriculture.
Ozone, which is produced in the air when volatile organic compounds interact with sunlight and nitrogen compounds, is bad for both plants and animals. For crops, the negative effects begin when ozone concentrations reach 40 parts per billion. In the valley it is not uncommon to see ozone concentration spikes in the summer well above 60 ppb. For perennial crops such as grapes, peaches and cherries, both quantity and quality of the fruit are reduced, with effects that continue over several years.
While many sources of VOCs are in the Grand Valley, the oil and gas industry is the largest of the human sources. And with the expected growth in the industry in the coming years, the potential for ever-greater ozone concentrations is very real.
Fortunately, cost-effective technologies are available to the oil and gas industry to reduce its emissions dramatically. Many companies have already adopted them. The proposed rules by the Air Quality Control Commission would require all companies to do so.
My wife and I enjoy the outstanding fruit and wine in the valley. We want the local farms to be productive for many years to come. That’s why we support the air-quality rules proposed by the state Air Quality Control Commission.
Tell officials about concerns over air pollution in valley
The bad news: air pollution. The good news: You can do something about it.
In an article in the Boston Globe last Oct. 18, the World Health Organization officially cited air pollution as a carcinogen more dangerous than secondhand cigarette and cigar smoke. Dr. Kurt Straif, head of the WHO department that evaluated carcinogens, said that the air most people breathe “has become polluted with a complicated mixture of cancer-causing substances.”
The facts are sobering. In the Grand Valley, we live in an environmental air trap. We create most of the trap: vehicle emissions, wood stoves, industrial pollution, open burning and recently byproducts of drilling.
What happens when valley residents move away because of fear of inversion and air pollution? What happens when people do not move here because of the health hazards? What happens if the economy suffers when there are no tourists?
Local officials could institute any number of regulations to improve air quality, including unpopular programs such as auto emissions tests, more open-burning restrictions, requirements for covered coal cars and limits on oil and drilling. Why haven’t they?
What can you do? Contact your city and county commissioners now, as air quality will be discussed in meetings this month. It’s your health at risk.
As Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”