I read with interest Beth Shelly's article in the 'Ranchland News' about the amount of money that counties in the State
have been given by the Oil/Gas industry. Weld County made over 2 million dollars last year. On the surface these
royalties seem to be a 'God Send' in these economic and unemployment rough times. As with any income there are
always expenses, costs, related to that income. The question is whether these costs, many of which are hidden, out
weigh the perceived financial benefit. What are the hidden costs of high volume slick water fracturing? Could these
hidden costs be minimized with regulations?
I've heard ranchers in northern New Mexico and central Wyoming tell me that leasing their land for oil and gas
exploration was the worst decision in their lives. It has cost their lively hood, degradation of their land and the health
of their families and livestock. (Look on Google Earth at the desertified land just east of Greeley.) They admit that the
initial bonus and royalties helped their ranches. Jobs left with the rigs. In the end all the money in the world would not
be worth the long-term effects.
Oil development is a large-scale industry. Millions of gallons of water are required for each frack; wells can be fracked
up to 16 times. If one well is on every 40 acres and there are tens of thousands of acres in the county, how much water
is that? Does it impact the aquifers, our water, and our lifeblood? Is there a cost associated with using that much
Drilling requires thousands of truck trips hauling water and supplies. What is the cost on the county's marginal roads?
Does having to deal with the noise of the trucks and rig operations cost anything? Is there a cost associated with an
increase of traffic accidents? Is there a cost of increased emergency services? Who pays for more deputies? The
workers are mostly from outside the community; they're specialized, trained people. Who pays for the impacts of these
transient workers and their families on our schools, jails, and social services?
If one's water becomes contaminated, what is the cost of that? What happens to property values? Mortgage and
insurance agencies threaten pulling coverage if land is leased and wells are drilled; hazardous chemicals are not
permitted to be stored on mortgaged land. Is there a cost associated with having one's mortgage called?
The industry's media campaign and lobbying efforts in legislation state that thousands of jobs are created. Why does
Weld County, which has over 17,000 wells, have one of the highest rates of unemployment in the State? Some jobs
with the service industries may occur. These jobs end with the 'Bust'. The cost of services for everyone increases
because of the inflated incomes. Who is left with the costs of changed infrastructure? (Ask Kiowa water users about
speculation and if it pays.)
What is the cost of good health? It is well known the air pollution can cause respiratory problems, endocrine
disruption, strokes in the elderly, and is hazardous to pregnant women and children. Volatile organic compounds and
nitrogen oxides form smog and pollution. These compounds are apart of every well development. Is speculation about
money more important than good health?
Our County, our State, can benefit from the industry. We all need oil and gas to power our economy and heat our
homes until alternative energy can be developed. Oil and gas development can be done safely with adequate
regulation. Let's minimize the costs to our environment and health by adequately regulating the industry. High volume
slick water fracking has not been around long enough to realize the cumulative effects. Go slow; be safe.