411 on Prop 112: The effects of oil and gas on Colorado’s economy

GREELEY, Colo. - The Problems Solvers are dedicated to giving you the 411 on Proposition 112 as we near to Election Day.

If approved by voters, the initiative would make all new oil and gas development in Colorado be at least 2,500 feet from homes, schools, businesses and more.

Currently, the so-called setbacks are 500 feet for homes and 1,000 feet for high-occupancy buildings like schools and hospitals.

The oil and gas industry has repeatedly said if Prop 112 passes, it would cripple Colorado's economy.

So, the Problems Solvers are taking a closer look at how much oil and gas affects the state.

The industry, via a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the American Petroleum Institute, says oil and gas accounts for more than 232,900 jobs - 78,300 directly - and nearly $31.4 billion in economic impact in Colorado.

However, the CU Boulder Colorado Economic Outlook 2018 tells a different story with jobs.

According to the study, the natural resources and mining sector is directly responsible for 26,100 jobs.

Most of those direct industry jobs are connected to the drilling and fracking stages of the oil and gas operation.

"Existing wells would continue to operate, but new development is shut down. So, basically, everything you see here, all the resources, all the people go away," SRC Energy Chief Operating Officer Mike Eberhard told the Problem Solvers at a fracking pad near Greeley.

Between that pad and a drilling site a few miles away, Eberhard said there were about 130 jobs that would disappear in a few years with Prop 112.

"It’s going to cripple Colorado," said Tom Forsyth, owner of Team Tom Gym in Greeley.

He told the Problem Solvers a lot of his 1,000 gym members and screen printing business customers are connected to oil and gas. He's worried about losing them and potentially his business if Prop 112 passes.

"I think we’re really going to have to revamp what we’re doing and how we do it," Forsyth said about the future with Prop 112.  "It's going to be a struggle for awhile. We don’t want to give up, but it’s going to change how we operate."

However, supporters of Prop 112 say their primary concerns are the health and safety of Coloradans.

"Their only argument is economics," said Patricia Nelson, who helped gather signatures to get Prop 112 on the ballot. "It’s never really a good idea to put all your investments into one stock."

Colorado doesn't. According to the CU economic outlook, just about 1 percent of the state's jobs are directly in natural resources and mining. Many more are in government, trade, transportation and utilities, and construction.

However, natural resources and mining jobs have one of the highest average salaries.

So, how big of an effect would Prop 112 have on Colorado's economy if it passes? The bottom line is it's too early to tell. Many have their own opinion. But the ultimate decision about it is now up to voters.

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