Drilling into the Details of Proposition 112 - An Unbiased View

First of all, don’t frack into this topic online. Special interest groups have littered the internet with their assertions on the impact of Proposition 112. You may find a lot of what you read only argues one side. This is an important decision and this piece is intended to provide you with an unbiased overview of the relevant details.

Below, you will see how much money has been poured into campaign efforts to argue each side. Over $17 million has already been spent lobbying Proposition 112. This is why you should care and vote based on your values, not somebody else’s.

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One-Sided Contributions in Favor of a “No” Vote

https://ballotpedia.org/Campaign_finance_methodology

https://ballotpedia.org/Campaign_finance_methodology

Donors opposing the Proposition 112 have spent over 23 times more than donors in support of 112.  https://ballotpedia.org/Campaign_finance_methodology

Donors opposing the Proposition 112 have spent over 23 times more than donors in support of 112.

https://ballotpedia.org/Campaign_finance_methodology

What led us here?

Geologic formations containing oil and natural gas are found in many areas of Colorado, with some formations underlying multiple local communities. Most of the state's oil production occurs in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, primarily in Weld County and other nearby counties. In 2017, there were about 54,000 producing wells in Colorado, a 48 percent increase since 2007.

Oil and natural gas extraction technologies. Technology enhancements, such as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," and horizontal drilling, have led to considerable oil and natural gas production increases in Colorado and nationally, as well as an increase in the number of wells and related facilities. Hydraulic fracturing is used for most new wells and involves pumping a mixture of water, sand, chemicals, and other additives, into underground rock layers where oil or natural gas is located. The pressure of the water creates small fractures in the rock. The sand keeps the fractures open, allowing the oil or natural gas to escape and flow up the well. Hydraulic fracturing enables access to oil and natural gas formations that were previously inaccessible. Horizontal drilling enables oil and natural gas operators to drill multiple wells from a single location to improve their efficiency and minimize surface disturbances.


Wording of Proposition 112

Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning a statewide minimum distance requirement for new oil and gas development, and, in connection therewith, changing existing distance requirements to require that any new oil and gas development be located at least 2,500 feet from any structure intended for human occupancy and any other area designated by the measure, the state, or a local government and authorizing the state or a local government to increase the minimum distance requirement?

  • yes vote supports the initiative to mandate that new oil and gas development projects, including fracking, be a minimum distance of 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other areas designated as vulnerable.

  • no vote opposes the initiative to mandate that new oil and gas development be a minimum distance of 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other areas.


Let’s drill into the fine points of Proposition 112

Proposition 112 requires that any new oil and natural gas development be located at least 2,500 feet from “occupied structures” (buildings where people live and work), and other areas designated as “vulnerable” (certain recreation areas and water sources, such as public and community drinking water sources, canals, reservoirs, lakes, rivers and streams).  This type of requirement is commonly known as a setback. Entering a previously plugged or abandoned oil or natural gas well is held to this same setback requirement. The measure also allows the state or a local government to require a setback distance greater than 2,500 feet. This measure does not apply to federal land, which includes national forests and parks and comprises about 36 percent of the land in Colorado.

State regulation of oil and natural gas. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in the Colorado Department of Natural Resources establishes and enforces regulations on oil and natural gas operations in the state. The COGCC is charged with fostering the responsible development, production, and use of oil and natural gas resources in a manner that protects public health, safety, welfare, and the environment. Current COGCC regulations, approved in 2013, prohibit oil and natural gas wells and production facilities from being located closer than: 500 feet from a home or other occupied building; and 1,000 feet from high-occupancy buildings such as schools, health care institutions, correctional facilities, and child care centers, as well as neighborhoods with at least 22 buildings.

Be careful of where you are getting your information, most websites have been created to influence you.

COGA’s Partnering Organization (against Prop 112)

Colorado Rising’s Endorsement groups (in favor of Prop 112)


The Dilemma

Would you vote “yes” for your own health? Would you still vote “yes” if it meant those around you would be impacted financially? Seriously, how does one decide if they are forced to choose between:

  • The health of the economy

  • The health of the environment and/or your health

It’s clear that arguments can be made for both sides. Below, you will find the arguments for both sides. Try to be open-minded, read both arguments, and choose wisely. On voting day, there is no right or wrong, only what is right for you.

Arguments for “No” on Proposition 112

Proposition 112 is overkill and there is no factual basis to move drilling to 2,500 feet other than outside political interests. Current regulations are stringent enough to protect residents of Colorado. “Prop 112 has nothing to do with safety, it’s essentially a ban on oil and gas in Colorado.” - CEO of Urban Solution Group

Onerous restrictions:

Proposition 112 eliminates new oil and natural gas activity on most non-federal land in Colorado. According to the COGCC, about 85 percent of Colorado's non-federal land would be excluded from development with the required 2,500-foot setback. When adopting the state’s existing setback rules, the COGCC considered the concerns of mineral owners, residents, schools, businesses, and others.

Light red includes occupied structure and vulnerable areas. Dark red and white not impacted.

Light red includes occupied structure and vulnerable areas. Dark red and white not impacted.

The surrounding area encompassed by the current 500-foot setback includes about 18 acres, and the 1,000-foot setback area includes about 72 acres. Proposition 112 increases the setback to a minimum of 2,500 feet, or about 450 surrounding acres. The current setback requirement may be waived in certain instances by the COGCC and a building owner. Proposition 112 does not include a waiver provision.

Economic impact:

Oil and natural gas development is important to Colorado’s economy. Proposition 112 will reduce the economic benefits the oil and natural gas industry provides for the state and may result in the loss of jobs, lower payments to mineral owners, and reduced tax revenue that is used for local schools and other governmental services and programs.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association asserts that every direct job within the oil and natural gas sector provides four to five additional Colorado jobs. A study conducted by the Common-Sense Policy Roundtable and a coalition of other organizations, found that Proposition 112 may kill up to 147,800 jobs in Colorado by 2030, with 77 percent of those job losses occurring outside of the oil and natural gas industry. In this study, they estimate from 2019 to 2030 the estimated loss in state GDP would be $218 billion and a loss in personal income of up to $147.6 billion, and a loss in state and local tax revenues estimated to be $7 to 9 billion.

Tax revenues:

Colorado collects state tax revenues from oil and gas companies. If the 2,500 foot setback materially impacts the ability of oil and gas companies to generate revenues in the state, Colorado school funding from the state may decrease.

State and local revenue from oil and natural gas. Companies that extract mineral resources, including oil and natural gas, coal, and metallic minerals, pay severance taxes to the state. Oil and natural gas tax collections fluctuate annually. From budget years 2012-13 to 2016-17, state severance tax collections from oil and natural gas producers ranged from $4.0 million to $264.7 million per year.


Funding for schools:

The Colorado State Land Board calculates that Proposition 112 will eliminate $230.3 million of funding for Colorado’s schools from state trust lands over a three-year period.

Yellow indicates vulnerable areas, turquoise is occupied structures - both impacted by a yes vote.

Yellow indicates vulnerable areas, turquoise is occupied structures - both impacted by a yes vote.

Arguments for “Yes” on Proposition 112

Proposition 112 also establishes a required setback from water sources and recreation areas to help protect those resources. Proposition 112 provides greater certainty of keeping oil and natural gas development farther away from occupied structures reduces resident exposure to industrial activity and the potential hazards related to such activity.

Health impacts:

Oil and natural gas operations may adversely impact public health, safety, and the environment. Some people living near these operations have reported negative health effects to the CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment), including sinus and respiratory conditions, headaches, and nausea.

The Friends of Earth Scotland conducted research which discusses numerous findings of increased symptoms reported by residents living near gas drilling sites, including skin rashes, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, breathing difficulties, coughs, nosebleeds, anxiety and stress, headaches, dizziness, eye and throat irritation. These symptoms are consistent with exposure to chemicals used in gas fracking and drilling. Researchers in Pennsylvania found that increased rates of hospitalization correlated with a dramatic increase in drilling and fracking activity in the state. The data examined suggested a link between well density and increased numbers of patients with heart and skin conditions as well as tumors and urological conditions.

If well density is an issue, certain areas should be concerned. Specifically, north-eastern, north-western, and mid-southern Colorado.

If well density is an issue, certain areas should be concerned. Specifically, north-eastern, north-western, and mid-southern Colorado.

A 2011 US study questioned 14 major fracking companies and found that they were using many chemicals that are toxic to humans. Of particular concern are chemicals used in fracking that are known to disturb hormones in humans and animals, called endocrine disrupters. Worryingly high concentrations of endocrine disruptors have been documented in air and water around fracking sites. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to sperm abnormalities, reduced fetal growth, cardiovascular disease, respiratory dysfunction and asthma. Studies on the long-term effects on female mice indicates reduced fertility.

Last summer, a plug-and-abandon site was forced by the state to shut down after Crestone Peak Resources violated safety standards just 25 yards from the Aspen Ridge Elementary School playground. This site was venting cancer-causing agents over the playground of young children.

Pollution:

The Scottish Government’s Health Impact Assessment says there is unequivocal evidence that air and waterborne hazards ‘would be likely to occur’ as a result of fracking, and there is evidence that waterborne hazards are ‘likely to impact negatively’ on the quality of groundwater drinking sources. Air born chemicals can leak from pipes, well-heads and other infrastructure. Combined with air pollution from site traffic and equipment, the resulting air pollution is thought to be a key cause of many of the health symptoms reported by people living near gas fields.

Then there’s pollution of the eight-wheeled sort: untold truck trips to service each fracking site. Per a recent report from Colorado, it takes 1,400 truck trips just to frack a well — and many hundreds more to haul the wastewater away and dump it into evaporation ponds.


Oil spills:

According to the EPA, frequency estimates from data and literature ranged from one spill for every 100 wells in Colorado. There are several mechanisms by which a spill can potentially contaminate drinking water resources. Last summer, more than 5,000 gallons of Anadarko’s oil spilled in the dense residential neighborhood of Erie Commons

Drinking water:

While the EPA report from 2015 states, “…Below ground movement of fluids, including gas, most likely via the production well, have contaminated drinking water resources. In some cases, hydraulic fracturing fluids have also been directly injected into drinking water resources, as defined in this assessment, to produce oil or gas that co-exists in those formations.”

Yellow area is designated water basin and lime green area is a designated groundwater management area. As you can see, water basins are surrounded by current and future oil production.

Yellow area is designated water basin and lime green area is a designated groundwater management area. As you can see, water basins are surrounded by current and future oil production.

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References:

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. https://cogccmap.state.co.us/cogcc_gis_online/

Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Coga.org

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-07/documents/hf_es_erd_jun2015.pdf

Denver Post. https://www.denverpost.com/2017/01/25/anadarko-well-spill-flow-redirected

Rollingstone. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/whats-killing-the-babies-of-vernal-utah-33666

Friends of Scotland. https://foe.scot/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Why-Fracking-is-bad-for-your-health-Spring-2017.pdf

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. https://www.colorado.gov/cdphehttps://www.colorado.gov/cdphe