Colorado Officials Take Sides in Fracking Dispute

Some 60 mayors and city council members from 17 communities have asked Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to have the state drop a lawsuit over fracking that challenges oil and gas drilling rules adopted by the city of Longmont.

The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel reported that the signers include the entire boards of Carbondale, Crested Butte, Lyons, Westminster and Bennett.

At issue is whether the state alone has the power to regulate oil and gas drilling, or whether local communities can add stipulations to how and where drilling can be performed. Hickenlooper and the energy producers argue that a patchwork of regulations is unworkable.

“If each municipality designed their own rules, the ability for industry to navigate those rules would be prohibitive, almost impossible,” Hickenlooper said at a forum in Longmont last week. “If we don’t have consistent regulations, with sufficient flexibility for the needs of our local communities … we’re going to have chaos.”

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association sided with the governor.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique for extracting oil and gas from shale formations by blasting water, sand and chemicals into the ground. Opponents have expressed environmental and health concerns over the process, but supporters say companies have been fracking safely for years.

Longmont’s measures limit surface oil and gas operations and facilities to non-residential zones, encourage companies to consolidate operations in fewer overall facilities, and fast-track the city’s review process for companies meeting voluntary standards such as setbacks from homes and schools.

Other local governments across Colorado are rallying to Longmont’s side.

“Local governments have a long history of using our existing authorities to govern industrial and development activities, including oil and gas development, within our borders on behalf of the public good,” Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot said in a news release about the letter to Hickenlooper.

No drilling is occurring in Carbondale, but a local coalition is trying to prevent drilling in an area west of town.