Mountain States

Fracking on Federal Land Brings Millions to Colorado Schools

Colorado schools are seeing a huge financial boost thanks to fracking in a new round of grants derived from mineral extraction on federal lands in the state. As the Greeley Tribune reports:

“Fracking on federal lands will be a boon to Weld County school districts, as county officials announced Thursday they’ve sent about $2 million to 17 districts in keeping with a 2009 Colorado law that created an appropriation formula for the federal kickbacks.”

A press release from the Weld County Commissioners announcing the disbursements sheds further light on how these funds will also go to important infrastructure improvements as well as a respected workforce development training program that benefits veterans and others looking to improve their job skills. From the press release:

“All school districts within the county will receive their proportional share of the statutory mandated amount. In addition, the committee agreed to allocate funds to the county for roads and bridges, also required by statute, and to the Weld County Bright Futures Program. In the end, 50% of the allocation will go to Weld County roads and 50% will go to education programs within the county for the benefit of Weld County students”

According to the press release, Weld County collected more than $7 million dollars in grant money from the U.S. Forest Service generated from mineral extraction on the Pawnee National Grasslands. The grants further discredit “Keep-It-In-The-Ground” (KIITG) activists who have called Pawnee National Grasslands mineral leases “corporate giveaways” that are “privatizing our public lands at clearance sale rates” in their campaign to ban fracking on public lands. Of course, as the Greeley Tribune reports, school officials and students who are seeing the benefits of those leases may disagree with that sentiment:

“District 6 spokeswoman Theresa Myers said the extra money came as a surprise to district officials, who will likely meet in the next week to determine how to use it.”

Elsewhere, recent figures released by the state show how federal leasing revenues are benefitting schools districts and local governments across Colorado, even in areas where little to no energy development is taking place.

The new round of funding draws even more attention to the impacts Colorado would face if KIITG’s goal of banning energy development on federal lands was enacted. As detailed in a recent U.S. Chamber report, the state would be hit particularly hard. A fact sheet accompanying the report shows how the state’s education systems and local governments would be hit especially hard:

“Roughly half [of federal royalties to the state], or about $62 million in 2015, was earmarked by the state to be spent on education programs. Approximately 40 percent, or $50 million last year, was distributed to local governments. Education systems and local governments would need to quickly identify alternative funding sources to be made whole.”

Fortunately, Colorado leaders like U.S. Senator Cory Gardner are pushing back against the reckless policies espoused by KIITG and their allies. And there are many more elected officials like him who are joining with statewide groups, local stakeholders and even some of our nation’s most prominent Democrats to speak out in opposition to this radical and misguided campaign.


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