Never underestimate the ability of the Colorado Springs City Council to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We almost had a new source of tax revenue and high-paying jobs on the east edge of town, but now it will wait.
A majority on Council showed courage and wisdom on Nov. 30, when they voted to allow drilling for oil and gas within the city limits. The issue arose because oil and gas speculators bought property within Banning Lewis Ranch, in an area where residential development long ago stalled.
New technology, fracking, makes the area a promising source of natural gas and oil that our country needs if we are to free ourselves from foreign fuel. To enjoy energy independence, Americans must accept minor inconveniences and reasonable risks associated with oil production. All progress involves some level of risk and aesthetic compromise, whether we’re talking organic farming, solar farms, medical procedures or nuclear power. The risks associated with fracking are miniscule, relative to countless other human endeavors, and without incurring those risks we will never live without oil wars and disingenuous foreign alliances.
Given the obvious need to glean more energy from American soil, all communities on or near fossil fuel resources must accept reasonable burdens. With those burdens come abundant tax revenues, high-paying jobs and economic development. That’s why The Gazette was delighted when Council voted, after more than a year of public hearings and exhaustive study, to allow oil and gas exploration in uninhabited developments on land the city annexed long ago. Local authorities studied the issue to death and they know good and well that Colorado has the toughest drilling regulations in the country.
What was supposed to be a formality — a mere legal confirmation of the vote taken Nov. 30 — became an about-face after Councilman Tim Leigh announced a change of heart this week. Council voted 7-2 to postpone a final vote on approval until February, at which point Council may again decide to delay all progress.
“My rationale is simple,” Leigh wrote in his electronic “Market Report” on Monday. “I don’t agree that we should allow drilling in residential zones or other softly-zoned areas we prize highly inside the city limits.
“On its face, I’m not convinced that drilling is benign and no pollution emanates from the operation. And while I’m willing to concede and accept some pollution as a necessary by-product of industrial production, and that we need some industrial production to maintain and grow jobs locally, I don’t feel we’ve fully explored all our options. This ordinance is not our best foot forward. This ordinance is an example of bad policy and bad government.”
Not so, councilman. The ordinance allowed owners of private land to make reasonable use of it in a manner that would greatly benefit the collective.
The decision to forbid energy production provides an example of the type of excessive government regulation that has made this country dependent on cultures that despise us. It’s an example of politicians genuflecting to a handful of radical activists, most of whom were seen for weeks-on-end at the old Occupy Colorado Springs protest.
Councilman Leigh is better than this and his action on the issue disappoints and surprises those who believe that local government should allow reasonable and safe efforts toward economic growth.
Two Council members — Angela Dougan and Merv Bennett — voted to allow exploration. They chose science, technology and information over the fear mongering presented to Council by extremists. We thank them and ask their colleagues to reconsider this unfortunate decision that will cost our community tax revenue and jobs.