I read with interest Beth Shelly's article in the 'Ranchland News' about the amount of money that counties in the State have been given by the Oil/Gas industry. Weld County made over 2 million dollars last year. On the surface these royalties seem to be a 'God Send' in these economic and unemployment rough times. As with any income there are always expenses, costs, related to that income. The question is whether these costs, many of which are hidden, out weigh the perceived financial benefit. What are the hidden costs of high volume slick water fracturing? Could these hidden costs be minimized with regulations?

I've heard ranchers in northern New Mexico and central Wyoming tell me that leasing their land for oil and gas exploration was the worst decision in their lives. It has cost their lively hood, degradation of their land and the health of their families and livestock. (Look on Google Earth at the desertified land just east of Greeley.) They admit that the initial bonus and royalties helped their ranches. Jobs left with the rigs. In the end all the money in the world would not be worth the long-term effects.

Oil development is a large-scale industry. Millions of gallons of water are required for each frack; wells can be fracked up to 16 times. If one well is on every 40 acres and there are tens of thousands of acres in the county, how much water is that? Does it impact the aquifers, our water, and our lifeblood? Is there a cost associated with using that much water?

Drilling requires thousands of truck trips hauling water and supplies. What is the cost on the county's marginal roads? Does having to deal with the noise of the trucks and rig operations cost anything? Is there a cost associated with an increase of traffic accidents? Is there a cost of increased emergency services? Who pays for more deputies? The workers are mostly from outside the community; they're specialized, trained people. Who pays for the impacts of these transient workers and their families on our schools, jails, and social services?

If one's water becomes contaminated, what is the cost of that? What happens to property values? Mortgage and insurance agencies threaten pulling coverage if land is leased and wells are drilled; hazardous chemicals are not permitted to be stored on mortgaged land. Is there a cost associated with having one's mortgage called?

The industry's media campaign and lobbying efforts in legislation state that thousands of jobs are created. Why does Weld County, which has over 17,000 wells, have one of the highest rates of unemployment in the State? Some jobs with the service industries may occur. These jobs end with the 'Bust'. The cost of services for everyone increases because of the inflated incomes. Who is left with the costs of changed infrastructure? (Ask Kiowa water users about speculation and if it pays.)

What is the cost of good health? It is well known the air pollution can cause respiratory problems, endocrine disruption, strokes in the elderly, and is hazardous to pregnant women and children. Volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides form smog and pollution. These compounds are apart of every well development. Is speculation about money more important than good health?

Our County, our State, can benefit from the industry. We all need oil and gas to power our economy and heat our homes until alternative energy can be developed. Oil and gas development can be done safely with adequate regulation. Let's minimize the costs to our environment and health by adequately regulating the industry. High volume slick water fracking has not been around long enough to realize the cumulative effects. Go slow; be safe.

Rick Blotter
Agate, CO