Well, this has to be the strangest blue on blue violence we’ve seen in a while. The Colorado Alliance of Mineral and Royalty Owners (CAMRO) issued a press release today showing that Colorado’s public schools could “face extreme financial hardship” if Initiative 97, a potential ballot measure to expand drill site setbacks to 2,500 feet from occupied buildings, passes. So, which God to pray to, Democrats? Public schools or the environment?
Through a Colorado Open Records Act request, CAMRO uncovered the fact that since 1980, Colorado’s public schools have received more than $560 million in revenue from the Colorado Land Board’s interests in the Wattenberg Field alone. According to the way Initiative 97 is written, operating wells will still be able to produce, but new exploration within the setback areas will not be permitted, nor will operators be able to re-open capped wells in those areas. The ballot measure could prevent the state from taking advantage of new technology in oil and gas development.
Each year, the Land Board distributes 95% of its revenue the the state’s School Trust, and the remaining five percent across eight other trusts, which were mostly formed for the benefit of various educational entities.
The School Trust is managed for the benefit of Colorado’s K-12 public schools, as well as for a special fund that is used to support various infrastructure and capital improvement projects for public schools across the state.
Under Initiative 97, 85% of Colorado land that is not owned by the federal government would be off limits for new oil and gas production, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Committee. In Weld County, the state’s most significant oil producing county, 78% of the land would be restricted.
A retired teacher and mineral owner from Arvada, Cristy Koeneke, said that Initiative 97 “would be a huge blow to public education here in Colorado, and teachers and school districts are already facing serious budget shortfalls.”
If Colorado schools already are in a bind, taking away tens of millions of dollars from the pot will only make things worse. But what do you expect from a party who fronts a guy who lights money on fire to prove a point as its gubernatorial candidate.