Recently in the Times-Call, Weld County Commissioners made their county sound like the new economic Disneyland with its high employment, balanced budget, low taxes and skyrocketing property values. I was contemplating a move from Longmont to Frederick to become Mickey and Minnie’s newest neighbor until I learned what their prosperity is based on.
By their own admission, at least 25 percent of Weld County’s proudly balanced budget comes from oil and gas revenues, “Fracking” in particular which is often associated with extracting natural gas. Natural gas prices in the U.S. are currently very low. However, demand is increasing and there is evidence of an estimated 20 percent of our shale gas reserves were quietly committed to overseas buyers. Since foreign countries pay up to 5 times more for natural gas, whom would you sell to?
Any economist would say this foretells rising prices domestically. Happily for Weld County, their oil & gas revenues will likely grow as prices increase. Modestly assuming the oil and gas portion of their income increases by 1 percent per year from the drilling boom, 55 percent of Weld’s budget in 30 years could rely upon income from oil and gas. Almost no one predicts that the boom will last more than 30 years, when reserves are projected to run out.
This mimics Houston in the early ’80s, when the bottom dropped out of the oil and gas industry and that region suffered severely as a result of their extreme dependence upon the industry. This time there will be no recovery, as price cannot bounce back for a resource that does not exist. Will Weld County be the new Houston when their economic carnival is victim to a catastrophic reversal because of the inevitable oil and gas bust?
Also, according to a recently released study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a mere 200 wells in Erie are responsible for higher levels of propane and ethane than occur in Pasadena, Calif., which is essentially Los Angeles — one of the most polluted cities of our country. “Well” County currently has more than 18,000 wells, which is 90 times the number in Erie. Does this suggest that their air pollution will be 90 times worse than Erie’s which is worse than LA? Forget Mickey and Minnie. I’m moving to LA to get away from the pollution.
Why does Weld County think it is so important to share their precarious “jackpot” of an economic success with us through our local newspaper which has little circulation in most of Weld County? Are they now marketing their amusement park brand of economics to the citizens of Longmont? In particular why do they feel it is so critical to inform us that an inordinate amount of their balanced budget comes from a heavy industrial activity that is being allowed in residential areas and is a known cause of significant air pollution?
Oh, and did I mention ground water contamination from the dangerous chemicals used in the Fracking process? Based on public record, between Aug. 28, 2003, and Jan. 5, 2012, there were at least 430 incidences of groundwater contamination caused by oil and gas wells in Weld County alone.
Could it be that the Weld County Commissioners are simply “carnies” for the oil and gas industry paid off by a tiny sliver of that industry’s huge profits at the ultimate expense of Weld’s citizens? Are they running a deceptive sideshow attraction that is a cartoon reality based on “bottom line” accounting alone?
I believe they will find citizens of our fair city considerably more thoughtful about what type of industry we are willing to welcome. They will find us reluctant to sell away our future for a temporary amusement park ride of a financial boom based on a high profit, doomed industry that relies entirely upon a soon to be exhausted natural resource. Weld County, I’m afraid you’ve been “Fracked,” and I for one am not getting in line to buy that ticket.