Sitting atop approximately one trillion barrels of oil and roughly 10 percent of the nation’s total reserve of shale gas, Colorado is poised to become a significant energy producer. But not if certain regulation-loving Democrats and their environmental cohorts have their way.
Recently Colorado Democrats Diana DeGette and Jared Polis, along with New York Democrat Maurice Henchey, tried to resuscitate a 2009 bid for further government intrusion into state sovereignty. The three sent a letter to President Obama urging support of their FRAC Act, a red-tape-lover’s dream that would essentially cede to the Environmental Protection Agency control of the natural-gas-extraction method of hydraulic fracturing.
Apropos of the renewed push, DeGette said, “With hydraulic fracturing expanding across the country, it is more important than ever we ensure the economic benefits of natural gas do not come at the expense of the health and safety of our families.” Apparently the Congresswoman is unaware that hydraulic fracturing has been in commercial use for more than six decades and in that time, according to 2011 testimony from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, there has not been a single, proven instance of it contaminating groundwater.
What is proven is the positive economic effect on U.S. communities of natural gas exploration and production. In Colorado alone the natural gas industry directly employs some 30,000 people, and indirectly supports more than 137,000 jobs. That means $18.4 billion in annual, gross output.
But the small matter of jobs and family survival has never been a big concern of the anti-conventional-energy contingent. Perhaps that’s how 13 environmentalist groups were able to demand in all seriousness in recent weeks that Gov. John Hickenlooper pull from the air a 30-second public service announcement of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.
Hickenlooper, a former geologist who worked in the oil-and-gas industry for five years and has studied hydraulic fracturing extensively, features in the ad, in which he says that since 2008 there have been no known cases in the state of hydraulic fracturing contaminating groundwater. A joint letter from the organizations gallingly and falsely contends the COGA ad “ignor[es] the high incidence of groundwater contamination from spills and releases of toxic chemicals at or near drilling sites."
Not surprisingly, the letter also calls for more – you guessed it – regulation of fracking, saying COGA should “adopt new and stronger protections for Colorado's water resources and communities." But Colorado already has the most stringent fracking regulations in the nation; last December, in an agreement brokered by Hickenlooper himself, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission adopted new rules that require drillers to disclose the chemicals used in every hydraulic fracturing operation in Colorado and file them with both the COGC and landowners. The rules go into effect next month, at which point anyone will be able to go online and look up the chemicals used in the fracking of virtually any well in the state. And Colorado’s not alone in willingly adopting these rules; so far11 states have or are working toward adopting their own regulations on fracking-fluid disclosure.
But instead of supporting the reliable, abundant resources within our own state borders, DeGette, Polis and environmental groups like to tout the many imagined benefits of so-called “clean energy.” A page on DeGette’s own House website discusses how “wind, solar, hydro, and other sustainable energy sources [are] critical to our energy platform.” But the belief that wind farms and solar panels will some day take the place of oil and gas is a fiction, and a costly one at that. Despite the Obama administration’s funneling of more than $90 billion of 2009 economic stimulus money to “clean” energy (including wind power), the American Wind Energy Association reported a drop in 2010 U.S. wind manufacturing jobs. More government waste right down the proverbial rat hole.
Coloradoans must ask what sort of energy future their elected representatives envision for the United States. At a time when so many are out of work and struggling to make ends meet, shale gas could provide significant relief. We need to make sure we have legislators willing to let our resources work for us.