In Colorado, we are privileged to live in a state with a thriving economy and abundant opportunity for young people. As the president and CEO of Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain, nothing gives me more satisfaction than inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy.
However, this November, future opportunities for all Coloradans are at risk due to a ballot measure that proposes to increase the setback requirement for natural gas and oil development to 2,500 feet – five times the current required distance. Supporters of this measure say passing Proposition 112 will protect public health and safety. The reality is that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), has stated on many occasions there is no “credible evidence” that being any further away from drilling activity is any more protective of public health than the current setbacks.
What is credible is the devastating impact Proposition 112 would have on young Coloradans’ future ability to find jobs, pay college loans, or just live in a state with limitless opportunity. According to a study released by the Common Sense Policy Roundtable (CSPR), the negative impacts of this measure will ripple throughout our state economy and significantly reduce the number of job opportunities. In fact, in the first year, these new setback rules would result in the loss of 43,000 jobs. That is nearly as many new jobs as Colorado adds in one year.
It’s stunning to note that 77 percent of those lost jobs won’t be in the natural gas and oil industry but rather in health care, construction, hotel and food services, real estate, local government — and education.
What is credible is that throughout Colorado, energy industry employees helped 500 non-profits and donated $9.3 million to their missions. They made blankets for veterans, prepared, packed and served 600,000 meals, packed 683 backpacks, donated toys, built bikes and homes, and yes, 817 industry professionals were involved with Junior Achievement.
What is credible is that if this measure passes, the first year loss in state and local tax revenue from new natural gas and oil activity would range from between $201 million and $258 million– which means less money for police and fire protection, K-12 education, road improvements and parks and recreation districts. The entire industry is projected to be reduced by 70% by 2030. If Weld County lost 70% of its production, in 2017 that would have meant a loss in school funding of $2,245 per pupil—or payroll for over 1,300 teachers.
The natural gas and oil industry has been under attack in Colorado for some time now. Yet, it is an industry that brings employment to hard-working Coloradans of different education and skill levels, and provides well-paid opportunities to young people just starting their careers. It is an industry filled with your neighbors and caring people who give their time, talent and treasure to community groups and non-profits to improve lives throughout this state. Moreover, it is an industry that provides billions of tax dollars to local communities who desperately need funding for schools, infrastructure and job training.
Make no mistake, if we make the wrong decision on Election Day, we will bring to a standstill a Colorado industry doing important work that serves us and serves our future.