Cross Currents

Need for oil and gas reform is clear as day

Column by Bill Christopher
Posted 5/16/17

As many of us know, the debate on allowing fracking operations close to residential areas and schools is an ongoing battle.

Unfortunately, the recent tragic explosion and fire at a Firestone …

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Cross Currents

Need for oil and gas reform is clear as day


As many of us know, the debate on allowing fracking operations close to residential areas and schools is an ongoing battle.

Unfortunately, the recent tragic explosion and fire at a Firestone residence is the most obvious documentation that meaningful setbacks and a comprehensive well and pipeline inspection program are fundamentally important to the health, safety and welfare of Colorado residents and schoolchildren. In the case of the setback of the newly constructed house, it was not a decision or policy which the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the COGCC, imposed. Instead, it's a decision/policy set by the Town of Firestone.

Inspection of the demolished house found a cut in an abandoned gas pipeline just six feet from the corner of the house, which leaked gas and caused the explosion, killing two people and leaving more injured. Obviously, the pipeline in question had not been inspected by a COGCC inspector.

Important work is needed

Hopefully all governmental agencies, including towns and cities that have a role in oil and gas exploration and ongoing operations, will take heed from this tragedy.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has quickly made a forceful stand on the issue and some legislators were trying to mandate mapping of all pipelines in the waning days of the session. Setting meaningful standards, including setbacks between wells and residential buildings/school buildings, is a basic requirement.

Also, the state needs to increase the number of field inspectors conducting ongoing, comprehensive field inspections of well and pipelines whether they are active or inactive.

Finally, the mapping of active and inactive pipelines is essential for the inspectors as well as the home-buying public so they can be aware of the proximity of any pipelines close to the house they did or might purchase.

City trash/recycling proposal is dead

The Westminster City Council has "pulled the plug" on any further consideration of the single trash hauling/recycling firm concept. The decision to drop any further pursuit of the idea came at a May 8 council discussion after receiving further feedback from the trash hauling firm still interested.

While the decision was not unanimous, the idea that started with the city's Environmental Advisory Board seems to have run its course.

After months of research by city staff and negotiations with area trash hauling firms, the single hauler idea was dumped. The council-driven idea stirred up a lot of residents, with well over half of those weighing in being seriously opposed.

I am glad the council took the citizens' feedback seriously. A lot of the feedback centered on claims of government overreach or goals which residents didn't see as being all that important.

Let's keep recycling in perspective

The city's website announcement about dropping the trash hauling/recycling effort went on to say: "The City of Westminster takes seriously its commitment to environmental stewardship and remains committed to its Strategic Plan goal of being a 'Beautiful, desirable, safe and environmentally responsible city.'"

It almost sounds like the city government is implying that the community is not environmentally responsible since the council dropped the single trash hauler approach. I would beg to differ with that line of thinking. Plus, being an environmentally responsible community does not rest on the amount of recycling done by residents. Let's keep this whole idea in proper perspective.

Westminster is a fine community even with a bunch of trash haulers who offer their services at a variety of prices and levels of service, allowing residents to make their own choice. Free enterprise is still alive in Westminster.

Day of reckoning is upon us

The day of reckoning is upon us! Remember the monthly headlines about Denver metro area residential properties skyrocketing in value? Denver has been in the top two to three metropolitan areas with steadily increased market value, due in part to reduced home inventory.

Well, that is all well and good as far as making your home worth more, but there is a well-known down side - increased property taxes.

According to a Denver Post article, home values in Adams County rose a median 40 percent for the new two-year assessment cycle, while Jefferson County's median increase was 22.8 percent.

Before you get too panicky, remember the Gallagher Amendment to the Colorado Constitution, which homeowners love. Your residential property's market value is reduced by the Gallagher calculation to produce your "assessed value." Using a rule of thumb of 7 percent of market value, a $300,000 market valued home would be assessed at $21,000. Then take the total mill levy of taxing entities applicable to your property multiplied by your assessed value and it produces your tax bill for the coming year. Let's assume a total mill levy of 100 mills. Using 100 mills multiplied by $21,000 value produces a tax bill of $2,100.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

Bill Christopher


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