Mountain States

Colorado Business Leaders Come out Swinging Against Ban-Fracking Talking Points in Public Policy Debate

Colorado business leaders are speaking out against claims being pushed by activists and a state legislator who are supporting a bill (that will be getting a hearing today), which “would hold oil and gas drillers liable for any earthquakes.”

The proposal has become a rallying point for activists behind a series of ballot initiatives to ban energy development in the state, while its sponsor Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, is actively seeking their support for the measure. But in doing so, Salazar has been repeating many of the oft-debunked claims of national anti-fracking activist organizations. From a post on Salazar’s campaign Facebook page outlining his legislation:

“Examples: if an oil and gas operator decides to plunk down an operation in the middle of your neighborhood and drives down property values, you can seek compensation for the loss in value. If emissions from an oil and gas operation causes adverse health effects on you or your family, you can seek compensation. If an earthquake occurs as a result of an oil and gas operation and it causes injury to a person or property, you can seek compensation.”

Colorado’s business community is calling him out. Penning a letter published in the Denver Business Journal, the group representing economic development and public policy interests states that the assumptions behind this proposal are “not grounded in science.” From the letter:

“The premise of the bill, that energy development triggers earthquakes, has not been scientifically proven.”

The group goes on:

“Colorado does not and has not experienced frequent earthquakes; this legislation plays on unfounded fears to the express detriment of an environmentally-conscious industry that employs tens of thousands of our fellow Coloradans. By singling out this industry, it chills the business environment at a time when the industry already is shedding jobs.”

The potential link between oil and gas operations and induced seismic events is an issue that has been extensively studied and as the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) has stated:

“USGS’s studies suggest that the actual hydraulic fracturing process is only very rarely the direct cause of felt earthquakes. While hydraulic fracturing works by making thousands of extremely small ‘microearthquakes,’ they are, with just a few exceptions, too small to be felt; none have been large enough to cause structural damage.” (emphasis added)

The induced seismic events happening in places like Oklahoma have been linked to wastewater injection wells, which is an entirely different process. A recent EID report entitled “Injection Wells and Earthquakes: Quantifying the Risk” added perspective to the risk of those events, finding that fewer than one percent of wastewater injection wells across the United States have been potentially linked to induced seismicity.

Salazar also claims property values would go down due to oil and gas operations. But as EID recently reported, property values have actually risen in areas where oil and gas development has been taking place.

Further evidence of the trend can be found in a statement from the Loveland-Berthoud Association of Realtors opposing a “ban fracking” initiative in Loveland. The Association did not mince words in its statement in opposition to the initiative:

“Many of the statements made by [anti-energy activists] have no factual basis and are simply allegations. There is no data that indicates fracking is harmful to human health, the environment or property values.”

Salazar’s claim that emissions from oil and gas operations are causing “adverse health effects” has also been widely discredited.

Studies by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection have all looked into similar claims and found that hydraulic fracturing does not pose a credible threat to air quality or public health.

It’s clear that Colorado’s business community is not interested in being misled on an important public policy matter by parroted talking points from ban fracking activists – Coloradoans shouldn’t be fooled either.

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