Mountain States

Fracking on Federal Lands Boosting School Safety and Funding New Infrastructure in Western Colorado

A new round of grants generated from federal mineral leasing revenues, largely driven by fracking on Colorado’s Western Slope, are boosting school safety and funding important infrastructure projects in the region’s rural communities.

The grants are funded by “royalties, rents and bonuses” derived from resource production on federal lands. And with oil and natural gas production making up the majority of Colorado’s federal mineral lease revenues, the increase in production made possible by fracking has grown the amounts available for grants in recent years.

The Mesa County Federal Mineral Leasing District grants, totaling nearly $300,000, have been awarded to fund street repairs and enhancements, utility improvements, equipment upgrades for a rural fire department, and an initiative to improve school safety in a Mesa County school district. KJCT 8 reports:

“The Mesa County Federal Mineral Lease District is giving $100,000 to District 51 schools to upgrade the classroom door lock system — making school more secure.”

The report goes on:

“It’s really exciting to be able to get the funding to put better locks on our class room doors, so teachers are able to lock down their classrooms and keep their students safe a lot faster,” said Crystal Stephenson, Principal of Nisley Elementary.

This latest round of grants, which are distributed in the Spring and Fall, are in addition to funds distributed in October 2015, which also went to a number of important infrastructure and safety projects.

  • Lower Valley Fire Protection District — $50,000 for their Fire Station Access Upgrade/Repair Project
  • Mesa County Public Library District — $49,969 for their 970 West Studio at Mesa County Libraries Project
  • Town of Palisade — $47,000 for their Voorhees Drain Improvement Project
  • Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority — $15,000 for their Public Access Automated External Defibrillator Program
  • Lands End Fire Protection District — $7,385 for their SCBA Bottle Repair and Replacement Project

Garfield  County, which ranks as the second highest producing county in the state for oil and natural gas production is also seeing the benefits. The Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District announced nearly $2 million in grants which were awarded to fund improvements across their district. As noted in a press release announcing the recipients:

“The grants awarded for the Spring 2016 Grant Cycle totaled $1,959,000.00. The grants awarded for the Traditional Grant Program totaled $1,790,000.00. The grants awarded for the Mini Grant Program totaled $169,000.00.”

The Garfield County grants will go toward a new roof for an elementary school, public safety radios, water treatment plant improvements and a variety of other community enhancements.

Grants from federal mineral leases provide an important revenue stream for rural communities that often struggle to fund community improvements. Yet these revenues and, in turn projects, face fierce opposition from national activist organizations who are increasingly targeting Colorado as part of their “Keep It In The Ground” movement, which seeks to ban energy development on federal lands. The national activist organizations behind the movement are seeking to ban fracking in Colorado and across the nation, which would be disastrous not only for rural communities, but to Colorado’s overall economy as well.

So while activists fly in from other states in their attempts to block federal mineral lease auctions and  stage protests and publicity stunts, rural Colorado communities are seeing the benefits of energy development on public lands.


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