News, Analysis and Opinion for the Informed Boulder Resident
Sunday December 8th 2019

Support the Blue Line

Subscribe to the Blue Line

That's what she said

city council transportation energy municipalization xcel housing urban planning april fools bicycles climate action density election 2011 affordable housing boulder county open space election renewables agriculture CU local food climate change election 2013 development youth jefferson parkway pedestrian election 2015 preservation Rocky Flats election 2017 recreation BVSD mountain bikes immigration boards and commissions plan boulder farming fracking GMOs transit urban design decarbonization planning board fires colorado politics wildlife land use smart regs downtown architecture new era colorado transit village parking homeless journalism plutonium natural gas ghgs commuting radioactive waste rental coal height limits taxes april fools 2015 walkability historic preservation energy efficiency historic district Neighborhoods diversity zoning population growth growth students North Boulder flood arts gardens education University Hill water supply bus election 2010 solar election 2018 nutrition RTD sprawl water quality election 2012 groundwater bike lane electric utility safety library april fools 2016 renewable energy affairs of the heart organic flood plain wetlands planning reserve zero waste mayor blue line electric vehicle ballot right-sizing street design transportation master plan obama hazardous waste county commissioners politics hogan-pancost longmont colorado legislature climate smart loan diagonal plaza campaign finance flood mitigation bears Mapleton solar panels PV recycling comprehensive plan golden conservation easement epa boulder junction pesticide congestion food drought road diet oil bus rapid transit commercial development inequality election 2016 flooding planning daily camera public health community cycles BVCP ecocycle Newlands automobile PUC climate change deniers children david miller ken wilson sam weaver community league of women voters wind power public spaces boulder creek crime mlk civil rights west tsa marijuana technology arizona Orchard Grove EV green points al bartlett Whittier city attorney

Phased Energy Development and the Precautionary Principle: Good for Critters and Communities


By

photo and graphics courtesy Pete Morton

The following is a summary of a presentation to PLAN-Boulder County on November 12th, 2012. To view the accompanying slides, click here.

“All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts… The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.

In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”

Aldo Leopold (1949), A Sand County Almanac.

High quality outdoor recreation, open space and scenic vistas, clean air, clean water, abundant wildlife and biodiversity are representative of the “natural amenities” that have been major drivers of economic development in the Rockies over the last 30 years. While the economic role of natural amenities varies across the “new western” landscape, in many communities like Boulder protecting the environment is a prerequisite for sustainable economic success.

Natural amenities, when combined with community amenities, can attract a highly skilled labor force, small businesses and entrepreneurs, recreation and tourism-based businesses, and retirees who bring their accumulated wealth. Job trends for the Rockies are shown in the figure below.

click to enlarge

In Colorado and other western states, public concerns are increasing about oil and natural gas drilling generally and hydraulic fracturing specifically.  These concerns include:

  • The large quantities of water consumed during fracking
  • The quality of recycled fracking water
  • Local air pollution (NOx, VOCs, haze)
  • Fugitive emissions and the health of kids and asthmatics
  • Impacts on roads and property values
  • Lack of inspections, monitoring and enforcement
  • Inadequate disclosure
  • The economic displacement of natural amenity-based jobs and income

While oil and natural gas development does generate economic benefits, as the pace and scale of drilling increases so do the cumulative risks.  While Colorado has some of the strongest laws in the US—many residents and local elected officials do not believe they go far enough—as evidenced by the intra-jurisdictional legal battles currently brewing.  One strategy for moving forward is to implement phased energy development guided by the precautionary principle and backed by a suite of economic instruments.

click to enlarge

Under a phased development strategy, the pace and scale of drilling is regulated in order to manage our exposure to harm.   The precautionary principle implies a social responsibility to do no harm and to protect the public health by requiring full disclosure, baseline data collection, monitoring, inspections, enforcement, and financial assurance.  The precautionary principle redistributes risk by requiring drilling decisions to be based on good data which prove no harm—placing the burden of proof on the oil and natural gas industry rather than requiring county residents to prove harm.

Fiscal responsibility and recessionary economic conditions call for a suite of new and updated economic instruments to increase revenue, create jobs, and to provide market-based incentives for technology-driven regulatory compliance by oil and natural gas companies. Examples include:

  • Performance bonds
  • Site specific performance bonds
  • Impact fees
  • Contingency fund
  • Mitigation credits
  • Carbon-Methane tax
  • Severance taxes
  • Royalty rates
  • Market forces

One of the goals of responsible energy development should be to control and internalize into drilling decisions the hidden costs (negative externalities) to communities, to human health, to biodiversity, to our climate, and to our natural amenities.  Consumers can more fully express their preferences and markets will operate more efficiently when all costs—public and private—are included in our energy supply curve.

Rate this article: 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

What do you think? Leave a comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.