Mountain States

Fact of the Day: Students Will Pay the Price for Anti-Energy Ballot Measure

With the clock winding down on anti-fossil fuel activists’ latest effort to turn in enough signatures to get their anti-energy initiative on the ballot this fall, there will certainly be an increased media attention on the issue. As a result, over the next two weeks, Energy In Depth will be providing key facts and information regarding the devastating economic impacts of such as measure and why Democrats, Republicans, industry and even environmental groups oppose the measure.

First up is the impact to our education community. If passed, this anti-oil and gas measure would come with a hefty price tag to Colorado’s schools, according to new information surfacing as the Aug. 6 deadline for signature collection looms.

A recent report from Denver7 delivers firsthand a Colorado teacher’s perspective on how the latest attempt by anti-fracking activists to ban fracking in the state would impact Colorado’s school system:

“Many teachers don’t realize how much education funding comes from oil and gas development,” said Cristy Koeneke, a retired educator and mineral owner from Arvada.

“And Initiative 97 and other development restricting legislation would be a huge blow to public education here in Colorado. Teachers and school districts already are facing serious budget shortfalls. Our students are our future and we cannot be so shortsighted about our future.”

Much like the similar measure proposed and failed in 2016, Initiative 97 would increase setbacks from 500 feet to 2,500 feet, making more than half of the state and more than 85 percent of non-federal land in Colorado off-limits for oil and gas production. New data show this would lead to harsh financial consequences for many in Colorado.

According to the Colorado Alliance of Mineral and Royalty Owners’ (CAMRO) recent findings, if Initiative 97 were to pass, “Colorado’s schools would face extreme financial hardship” that would essentially cripple school funding to the tune of more than a million dollars. Given that a large portion of Colorado public education funding comes from the Colorado State Land Board’s four million acres of mineral estate lease revenue, with nearly 95 percent of that revenue directly allocated to Colorado’s public education system; if passed, Initiative 97 would essentially eviscerate this cashflow source. To give an idea of just how much mineral royalty revenue goes toward education, last fiscal year, Colorado public schools received $108 million from the state land board.

And that’s just for one year. As it turns out, for decades, Colorado public schools have received a huge chunk of royalties from developed minerals in the state. Through a Colorado Open Records Act request made by CAMRO, the group found out just how much Colorado’s public education system benefits from the development of minerals in Colorado:

“[S]ince 1980, the Colorado Land Board’s education funds received over $560 million in revenue from oil and gas leases in Colorado’s Wattenberg Field.

“In the last two years alone, these assets generated $166 million in revenue and interest, which funded K-12 public schools as well as Colorado’s higher education institutions.” (emphasis added)

Keep in mind that in Colorado, per pupil funding comes to around $6,292.39 per school year, and that’s just the base funding in the state – factors like “at-risk” funding, cost of living, and personnel funding can drive up the cost much higher. With the cost of school programs on the rise, it’s no wonder education is a hot button issue.

Looking at Initiative 97’s fallout juxtaposed with the education related campaign promises, this proposal is a hard sell for candidates of all parties. For Democratic gubernatorial pick Jared Polis, a long-time anti-fracking supporter who has personally bankrolled similar setback campaigns, the funding implications of Initiative 97 should be considered given his campaign promises to pay teachers more. As Polis makes his case for why he should win the governorship this fall, he’s metamorphosed from increased setback champion to not backing Initiative 97 at all.


As in years past, proponents of Initiative 97, are of course, using some of the same old anti-fracking activists’ talking points and scare tactics to garner signatures. Despite anti-fracking activists’ efforts, the facts about the proposed measure remain – Colorado students and teachers lose if Initiative 97 wins. For now, the clock is still ticking as proponents of the setback proposal have until August 6 to get more than 98,000 valid signatures, which would then put the measure on the November ballot for consideration.

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