Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

GUEST COLUMN: Ballot measures meant to ensure energy growth

Jared Polis Updated: May 9, 2014 at 7:00 am 0

The recent Colorado Springs Gazette editorial regarding "anti-energy efforts" is based on misinformation regarding the various measures that might be placed before voters this November.

In fact, these efforts are an attempt to establish a framework that will ensure the continued growth and development of the energy industry, while alleviating the very real and valid concerns of local homeowners.

Without this framework, several municipalities have passed bans against drilling operations in Colorado. Residents of cities including Broomfield, Fort Collins, and Longmont have taken the issue into their own hands out of frustration that their normal local planning process is completely co-opted by the state with regard to oil and gas.

No one wants drilling to occur next to schools, playgrounds or their homes, but absent reasonable changes to ensure that homeowners can participate in the zoning process, it is likely that more areas will pass local bans or perhaps voters will even insist on a statewide ban.

I do not support a statewide ban on fracking. These bans are not in our interests as a state or nation, and therefore we must address the relevant policy issue so that our energy sector can grow and homeowners are protected.

Energy operations and extraction activities are important not only to our Colorado economy but to achieve energy independence nationally and reduce our reliance on politically volatile regions like the Middle East. We are jeopardizing energy production in Colorado by not appropriately including cities and counties in the planning process around extraction activities or establishing sufficient zoning rules to protect homeowners, schools and playgrounds.

The essence of the conflict is individual property rights.

A recent study found that nearby wells reduce property value by 4-15 percent. It is understandable then that homeowners in affected areas are up in arms over the ability of the state to force them to have an activity on their own property that could wipe out their life savings or place their home underwater with regard to their mortgage.

Who wouldn't be upset?

It is very reasonable that in urban or densely populated suburban areas, different rules would be applied to extraction activities than in unpopulated areas.

Perhaps, as some of the initiatives filed indicate, fracking should be 1,500 or 2,000 feet from homes (unless the homeowner agrees to allow it to occur closer).

Or perhaps we should simply let cities and counties work out the most appropriate process in their areas.

Currently, oil and gas operations are even exempt from nuisance and noise ordinances. You aren't allowed to throw a loud party at 2 a.m. or you'll be reported to the police, but the state forces cities and counties not to enforce their noise ordinances on fracking operations (which include 24-hour loud industrial activities in their first few months) even if they are only 500 feet from homes or subdevelopments.

We must get past the rhetoric on both sides and seek common sense solutions that provide stability for the energy sector in Colorado and address the legitimate concerns of homeowners and communities. A number of the initiatives that have been filed would do just that.

I hope that The Gazette reconsiders its position as it delves further into these matters.

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Jared Polis represents the 2nd Congressional District of Colorado in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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