Fracking and its safety continue to be on everyone’s minds, and one town in Colorado has become the first in the state to outlaw the oil and gas drilling practice. During the U.S. November election, Longmont, CO, a farming town at the base of the Rocky Mountains, banned fracking despite opposition from the authorities, including seven former mayors of the city. The state’s governor has warned residents that the ban will probably result in a lawsuit from the state, that insists that only it has the authority to decide where drilling occurs.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, a key lobbying group for the local energy industry, criticized the ban for stepping on the toes of private companies that own property with rights to oil and gas buried deep under Longmont’s parks, cities and reservoirs. Governor John W. Hickenlooper, in a statement on the group’s website, says that technological advances in drilling and fracking will enable the state to harvest these resources while providing more than 107,000 jobs and $32 billion Colorado’s economy. He also states that Colorado recently passed the toughest hydraulic fracturing disclosure rule in the country.
But backers of the ban, such as Gordon Pedrow, a former city manager of Longmont, says that Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment repeatedly states it has no way of knowing the actual negative impacts of toxic air emissions from oil and gas operations, especially fracking.
The measure has inspired other Colorado cities, including Denver and Fort Collins, to push for similar bans. Quoted in an article in the Denver Post, Marsha Miller, a former sate health worker leading the group, Denver Community Rights, said, “The prohibition of drilling in Longmont will serve as a platform for the rest of us. The wind blows everywhere. It’s our air. And the industry is exempted from the Clean Air and Clean Water acts.”
Over the summer, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission sued Longmont over new oil and gas rules it says trespassed into state-governed areas. In July, the Longmont City Council updated its drilling laws for the first time since 2000. The new laws restrict drilling in residential areas. But the state objected to the ban as officials say it affects the ability of the owners of oil and gas pools that lie below Longmont’s residential areas to obtain production profits. And the state also objected to the city’s proposed rules for wildlife protection and its request for separation distance between wells and a wildlife area.