GUEST COLUMN: Colorado Will Lose If Voters Allow Local Fracking Bans

Article excerpt

A report last week from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City found that Colorado's labor force participation rate fell 5.7 percentage points from 2007 to 2013. This parallels a similar national decline: America hasn't had such a large percentage of able bodied men and women drop out of the workforce since Jimmy Carter was president.

Tens of thousands more Colorado workers will lose their jobs and give up if a new activist organization has its way - and they will need your signature to make it happen.

A natural gas boom feeding $30 billion and more than 110,000 well- paying jobs into the Colorado economy has kept the state's unemployment rate below the national average. New discoveries of natural gas in 32 states and widespread use of an old technology - hydraulic fracturing - is at the heart of a national energy boom breathing life into an otherwise anemic American economy.

Called "fracking" by opponents, hydraulic fracturing has been declared safe by every relevant state and federal agency, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the U.S. Department of Energy to the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

The technology even has broad bipartisan support: Key Democrats like Pres. Barack Obama and Gov. John Hickenlooper back safe use of the technology.

Colorado state authorities have traditionally imposed some of the strongest hydraulic fracturing regulations in the country. Before being issued drilling permits, companies must provide baseline water testing results and submit emergency response plans and studies that show the transportation impact of vehicles serving well sites. Active and inactive wells must be supervised by16 full-time inspectors and 20 others who monitor the wellheads.

The state legislature is expected to approve even more inspectors and regulators are always tightening controls. In late February, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission approved a new set of rules to curb pollution and methane leaks - the first direct state control of methane emissions in the country. But a small group of anti- energy activists don't think setting the national standard for oil and gas regulation is enough. Local Control Colorado, backed by national organizations out to ban hydraulic fracturing, presented ballot language to the Colorado Legislative Council last month that would effectively end the boom here.

A statewide voter referendum is their only choice, because they cannot get hydraulic fracturing banned on the merits of their arguments. …