Bill Jerke

Bill Jerke

You couldn't have asked for a better neighbor than the oil and gas industry in 2013 when Weld was hit with a monstrous flood of biblical proportions (re: "THE PODIUM | Oil and gas make lousy neighbors," June 24). The industry shut off all their wells and secured their tanks from leaking. They then rolled up their sleeves and brought in their heavy equipment and people and rendered emergency services across our giant county. From water bottles to helping with domestic water lines and bridges, they were everywhere!

I've been on our family farm my whole life, some 65 years now. When oil and gas first came in, I was apprehensive. I was wrong. While not perfect — mankind isn't, you know — they bend over backward to make it right. From royalty payment to thousands of Weld property owners to the $200 million in property taxes paid to Weld K-12 schools last year, oil and gas contributes more than their fair share.

Heck, they pay 11 times as much as homeowners do in property taxes for the same valuation as homeowners. Without oil and gas, property taxes would have to more than double for local governments to provide the same services as today.

The real test is health outcomes, however. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Weld County has virtually the same, if not better, health outcomes as the other major northern Front Range Colorado counties. Whether it's cancer, or low birth weight, or asthma or infant mortality, Weld is right in the hunt with its peers. Weld has had around 20,000 wells for this century. If the oil and gas industry was really a causer of poor health outcomes, we would know it by now. Weld has been the canary in the mine and lived to fly back out healthy as before!

A great test of wealth production is assessed valuation. Weld has the second highest assessed value in the state. Only Denver County is higher. Weld is only about ninth in population.

The state and the industry have led the way in regulation nationally. Colorado has the strongest environmental standards in the country, and we should be proud of this!

The final proof is the fact that oil and gas drives quality for civilization. Look around you and everything you see, eat and drink, enjoy, etc., has an oil and gas component to it. We are truly blessed to live in Colorado at a time when we can harvest the oil and gas to keep improving our lives!

Bill Jerke, a farmer, retired Weld County commissioner and former state representative from LaSalle, is executive director of Weld County's Fostering Unity and Energizing Leadership alliance.

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