Colorado’s Fracking Fight Far From Over
Voters in Lafayette, Boulder and Fort Collins decided to hit the pause button on hydraulic fracturing Tuesday night. Election results in Broomfield are too close to call. A proposed moratorium failed by 13 votes, which will likely trigger a recount.
A key argument among opponents of the measures touched on litigation threats, in part backed up by previous events. Longmont voters passed a fracking ban in 2012 and the city is currently engaged in two lawsuits.
So far neither the state nor Colorado’s oil and gas industry are raising the threat level over litigation.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office released a statement Wednesday saying that local fracking bans “deprive people of their legal rights to access the property they own.” The statement continues:
These bans may or may not result in new legal challenges from mineral rights holders, individual companies or others. No matter what happens we won’t stop working with local governments and supporting regulations that can be a national model for protecting public health and safety.
Colorado Oil and Gas Association president Tisha Schuler told Colorado Public Radio that for now there are no plans to sue the cities.
Our emphasis will be on educating our neighbors, continuing to mobilize people within communities who are supportive of our industry.
If there’s anything that can be gleaned from the timeline of Longmont’s ban, it took more than a month after the 2012 November election for a legal challenge to appear.
- July 11, 2012 - Longmont Officials Signal Support for Tougher Fracking Regs
- July 31, 2012 - State Suing Longmont Over Oil And Gas Regulations
- Aug, 15 2012 - Hickenlooper Pushes For Settlement in Longmont Drilling Dispute
- Nov. 6, 2012 - Fracking Ban Passes in Longmont
- Dec. 18, 2012 - COGA Sues Longmont Over Fracking Ban
Meantime, fracking foes appear to be emboldened by Tuesday night’s results.
“There's no doubt that Colorado is certainly a litmus test for much of the West,” Mountain West region director for Food & Water Watch Sam Schabacker said to KUNC.
But B.J. Nikkel, who worked as a consultant for all four opposition groups, doesn’t see it that way. She points to the close election results in Broomfield, which she says is more representative of “purple” Colorado.
“I think as the debate moves from places like Boulder and Fort Collins to a broader Colorado — maybe a more purple Colorado — I think you’ll see a different outcome,” she said.