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Energy and agriculture can co-exist

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Dear Editor:

Eco-activists in Delta County perpetuate a mistruth. They claim energy and agriculture can't coexist. This narrow-minded, ridged belief system doesn't represent the view of most Delta County residents who rationally believe a community can have both energy and agriculture -- economic sectors that are interdependent and complementary. In 2017 paid activists wrote a paper claiming natural gas production makes no economic contribution in Delta County and is in fact a negative economic factor. Ironic given propane gas is the primary energy source and heating fuel in the county. To support this wild claim, professional activists wrote their own study. Funded their own study. Peer reviewed their own study. Published their own study. And then shamefully promoted their own study in Delta County for political gain. Of course such efforts harbor lots of scientific credibility (said nobody, ever.) A litany of omissions and misrepresentations in the study were immediately identified -- so numerous were the shortcomings that the professional activists themselves acknowledged in the media that their assessment was indeed flawed. And last week's reboot of the paper has once again been largely dismissed as propaganda by almost everyone who has read it.

While demonstrating a lack of understanding of how industry cash flows work, eco-activists glibly dismiss the 40 agricultural water projects in the North Fork Valley that have been funded using natural gas royalties from grants and loans originating from Colorado's Water Conservation Board. If state natural gas royalties from natural gas fund a litany of irrigation projects in Delta County, are energy and agriculture really mutually exclusive? Delta County Schools received over $25 million in 2016 from natural gas royalties through the school equalization fund and direct distribution of natural gas royalties. Drilling deeper, according to state statistics, over 1,100 Delta County families pay their energy bills using natural gas royalties from Colorado's Low Energy Income Assistance program. While not assessed in the activists propaganda, these economic contributions are too large to simply ignore for a group whose underlying premise is that natural gas production has no economic value to the economy.

Natural gas royalties also funded Colorado's Species Conservation Trust Fund, Colorado's Agriculture Value Added Fund, the Aquatic Nuisance Mitigation Fund; the Colorado River Compact Committee, state forestry grants, Colorado's Wildfire Risk Reduction Fund; and the Invasive Species Management Fund. These programs all have active projects in Delta County. In fact, Paonia Reservoir received over $4 million from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Waterways Program that also receives natural gas royalties. And energy and agriculture are incompatible?

Delta County landowners receive natural gas royalties through Colorado's State Forestry Grant Assistance Fund mitigating wildfire risk, and Hotchkiss, Paonia, Delta and Cedaredge are recipients of direct royalty payments from natural gas production funding roads, bridges, parks and conservation projects all listed on Colorado's Department of Local Affairs website. The North Fork Valley has paid property taxes on natural gas minerals for 100 years and many would like to see the benefits of developing their property to create prosperity for their families and community. These amateur-hour efforts meant to offer the public a false choice that they must choose energy or agriculture are insulting to people who have been in western Colorado for awhile. Most western Colorado residents know the area's royalty owners are in fact farmers and ranchers.

Dozens of examples exist debunking an erroneous claim that having energy in your community decreases real estate values. And if by having modest natural gas production means people will stop hunting and fishing and recreating in Delta County (another wild and baseless claim made in the report), why hasn't this trend occurred in places like Durango -- a county that has huge amounts of natural gas production in the heart of a recreation and ranching economy?

Our association has asked one of Colorado's most renowned academic economists to peer review the organization's latest work. When that review is done we'll be inviting the paper's author to a healthy debate potentially hosted at Colorado Mesa University. During this exchange we believe citizens can make their own decision about the merits of the report and its underlying assumptions that energy provides a negative economic value to an economy. But until that time, we remain committed to refuting political pseudoscience meant to disparage an industry whose fundamental role in the world is to benefit society and improve the quality of life for human kind.

David Ludlam
Executive Director
West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association

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