Pumpjack Colorado oil gas

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Coloradans want better K-12 schools and higher teacher pay. The greatest promise of more school funding comes directly from the production of traditional energy.

“Under state law, the property tax assessment rate for oil and natural gas production is 12 times higher than residential property and three times higher than commercial property,” said Simon Lomax, energy resources fellow at the Colorado-based Common Sense Policy Roundtable.

The greatest threats to this K-12 cash machine are constant efforts by radical environmentalists to run the industry out of our state.

By smearing Colorado’s oil and gas producers with unscientific and unverified claims, activists have scared average Coloradans who are busy trying to pay bills and bring up their children. When someone with a sign and bullhorn says a nearby oil operation will devastate children, parents understandably believe it. They err on the side of protecting their kids.

Local and state politicians get political traction by demonizing oil and gas production and trying to regulate it out of their jurisdictions. State law has long protected oil and gas from political opposition, but Senate Bill 181 — signed into law this year — attempts to greatly expand the authority of local governments to destroy energy production with excessive regulations.

Lomax and the roundtable released research this week that shows how harming oil and gas will deprive schools and the children who need them.

The roundtable’s study looked at plans for new oil and natural gas production in the next 10 years, and how it would affect five municipalities. The anticipated new production, all threatened by SB 181, promises a bright future for K-12 education.

“Public schools would be the largest beneficiary, potentially receiving $822 million to $1.14 billion over 10 years — enough to raise teacher salaries in K-12 districts serving these communities by 31% to 42%,” explains a summary of the study’s findings. “Municipal governments would potentially receive $194 million to $258 million over 10 years, which would be enough to repair roughly 600 to 800 lane miles of deteriorated local roads with brand-new asphalt overlay. County governments, fire departments, parks and recreation agencies and other public services would also benefit from these new property tax revenues.”

New oil and gas production, unimpeded by excessive regulation, will generate $400 million for Commerce City; $944 million for Aurora; $202 million for Erie; $248 million for Broomfield; $52 million for Johnstown; and $944 million for Aurora.

These communities and others need this additional revenue. Oil and gas operations generate it without imposing taxes on residents —including teachers.

Money, of course — even for something as important as education — has limited value if the trade-off includes damage to the public’s health. We can’t increase education funding at the cost of causing cancer.

Study after study, federal and state, has failed to prove a link between fracking and substantial risks of cancer or other serious health risks. A state study released in October found health risks for people within 300 and 2,000 feet of oil and gas operations are typically below guidelines. In rare, worst-case scenarios people within short distances of oil and gas operations might incur short-term headaches and dizziness. That happens to people who stand in freshly painted rooms.

The most telling data point comes from a report by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute, which lists cancer rates for every county in the U.S.

Weld County hosts 90% of Colorado’s more than 55,000 oil and gas wells. If fracking causes cancer, the county’s dense collection of wells — which have proliferated since the 1980s — would surely translate into a high cancer rate among the population. Ubiquitous oil operations are close to schools, businesses and residential neighborhoods.

Yet, of the nine counties that make up the greater Denver metropolitan area, one stands out for having the lowest cancer rate: Weld. While fracking-averse Boulder County has 386.1 cancer patients per 100,000 residents, Weld has 379.5. El Paso County, outside the Denver metroplex and nowhere near dense fracking operations, has a cancer rate significantly higher than Weld’s.

Oil and gas heat our homes, fuel our cars and make possible new energy options that harness the wind and sun. The industry safely generates billions of dollars for Colorado schools. Those who want better schools and higher teacher pay should defend oil and gas from irrational attacks of the environmental left.

The Gazette Editorial Board

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