This is a postscript to “The one about nonpartisan elections.” Yes, the election was nonpartisan, in that political affiliations were not mentioned. But the oil and gas employee, a Republican, won the mayoral race in Thornton, Colo.
Her election doesn’t bode well for the future development of our city and the land to the north and west, where homebuilders have to face off against drilling companies for the right to develop open parcels of land.
Who wants to pay $500,000+ for a new home just a stone’s throw from an active fracking operation? Or $600,000+ for a new home with a spectacular mountain view, only to have it ruined by a new drilling operation?
The unfortunate fact is that all that open land so obviously positioned for the expansion of our exploding communities has also been found to be extremely rich in oil and gas deposits. And so the race began to obtain drilling rights before homebuilding rights, or vice versa. Not to mention the fight to protect existing homes and property values from a very undesirable intrusion.
I, of course, view all this with obvious prejudices. I’m a homeowner, luckily in a well-established area with no wells or open land nearby. I empathize intensely with homeowners fighting to keep new wells far, far away and out of sight. I used to drive across about ten miles of open, rolling plains to get to my doctor. Along the way I looked west to a wide expanse of uninterrupted mountain splendor and dreamed of someday owning a home atop that hill, or that one, or that one.
Now that same land is checkerboarded with little housing developments and big drilling operations. The homes are lovely — and very expensive. The drilling operations, in compliance with new laws, are “hidden” behind 20-30 foot tall walls that look like giant cell or warehouse walls. I’m not sure but what the naked drilling rigs were less obtrusive. But the walls are also supposed to mitigate sounds, smells, fumes, etc. In any case, they are offensive to someone who used to enjoy the expansive views, and every one of them represents a violation of what should or could have been beautiful serene neighborhoods. The highest hill along my 10-mile drive is now topped with a drilling rig and wall. Naturally.
Objections to the drilling include noxious or dangerous fumes, intrusive noise, lights, dust, groundwater pollution, heavy truck traffic, and explosions and fires. To that I would add the danger of possible earthquakes such as those in Oklahoma. And all of it worrying and unsightly.
Oil and gas supporters would cite income for workers and mineral rights owners, taxes paid, and fossil fuel energy supplied.
It’s pretty obvious that a city can only expand onto adjacent land, while oil and gas companies can drill elsewhere. Unfortunately, their biggest immediate profits are right here.
I could never afford a new home out in those contested areas, but I still dreamed about it and envied those who could afford it. Now I’m just grateful to have the home I have. And I’m sad that I can’t even drive out there anymore without seeing the ongoing conflict.
Here, go ahead. Pick a side. Energy or environment:
(Oops. Apparently I’ve ranted this rant before. See “What price oil?”)