Oil play’s potential, impact needs more study

I applaud the La Plata County commissioners’ careful consideration of Swift Energy’s application to drill exploratory wells in La Plata County. This is a new endeavor here, and there is great enthusiasm about the prospects of a new oil play and its profits, seen as a potential economic windfall, being forthcoming for our area. While the economic boom would be welcome, this is not a playful thing, and more information is needed.

We have seen what the oil boom has done to Weld County northeast of Denver, and to the south in New Mexico. Do we want that to happen to our landscape here in La Plata County? The Dryside is already dry, and drought is forecast for this spring. Where will the millions of gallons of water needed for this type of drilling come from? All water here is already over-allocated, and the wells and springs on the Dryside already are marginal at best. Water has to come from somewhere. Where would that be?

While drilling technologies have improved in recent years, there are still many unknowns about the long-term effects of fracturing our Earth far underground, of how fracking fluids and wastes injected into deep wells for disposal can migrate in fissures, or how groundwater sources can be damaged. These are serious unknowns and there is nothing playful about any of it. The land, water and air are depending on our commissioners’ stewardship, and we residents are relying on that protection. I urge the commissioners to enact a moratorium on shale-oil development until more questions can be answered thoroughly.

Julianne Ward