Last month, more than 2,500 Weld County students walked across a stage at their high school and received their high school diploma along with a special promise: a brighter future.
These students can receive a Weld County Bright Future Scholarship for $3,000 to attend the college of their choice. The program was made possible by the foresight of county leaders, but also by the oil and gas industry, which has provided thousands of jobs in our county and millions in tax receipts. The same industry that has helped our county remain free of debt is also helping us give our youth a hand up.
These are exciting times for our high school seniors, and for the future of Weld County. But these are also perilous times for the oil and gas industry. Not only are the operators that work here battling market forces, they’re also battling activists who want to end the industry in Colorado through poorly thought-out ballot initiatives.
The oil and gas industry has always been here for all of us in Weld County. After the floods, they stepped in and provided millions for our relief efforts and in the first hours quickly responded with more than $65,000 in gift cards that we as commissioners were able to provide to those who were stranded. The industry helped dig people out of the rubble, rebuilt roads, and provided aid to those in need. They never asked if you were for or against industry, they just wanted to help. They didn’t help out for publicity or for some cause, they did so because many of them live right here in our communities. They are our friends and our neighbors.
Yet, the industry potentially faces these measures that are so extreme they will basically ban fracking and responsible oil and natural gas development, which would result in Colorado losing billions of dollars in economic activity, hundreds of millions in tax revenues and tens of thousands of jobs. What’s even worse is that interest groups outside of Colorado are pushing these ballot measures. Those groups claim they are trying to protect communities, but in reality they are taking away private property rights.
Furthermore, the state of Colorado has enacted no less than 10 new rules and regulations on the oil and gas industry every year for the past five years. We should give these regulations a chance to work before using ballot initiatives to change the state constitution.
The industry has stood with us. Now it’s our turn to stand with them, and fortunately, there is still time to stop these damaging ballot initiatives. The measures in question are Initiative 40, Initiative 63, Initiative 75 and Initiative 78, and activists are still in the early stages of collecting signatures to qualify these measures for the ballot. They must gather 120,000-plus signatures by August 8th in order to qualify, but we can prevent them from reaching that critical mark. The signature collectors will say “it’s just local control” or “it’s just a small setback for oil and gas,” when in reality the proposed 2,500-setback strips away private property and over 85 percent of oil and gas development in Weld County.
If you see people collecting signatures to put one of these anti- oil and gas initiatives on the ballot, say no. Decline to sign. This is about more than just making sure we stand with an industry that has stood with us. This is to ensure that our county and our high school graduates can continue to have a bright future.
By Weld County Commissioner, Sean Conway
As printed in the Lost Creek Guide on July 6, 2016