Monday, January 05, 2015

Colorado city that banned fracking may be fighting a losing battle against powerful forces

Longmont, Colo., made headlines in 2012 when residents voted to ban fracking. But with Longmont sitting atop as much as $500 million worth of oil and gas, it "has become a cautionary tale of what can happen when cities decide to confront the oil and gas industry," Jack Healy reports for The New York Times. "In an aggressive response to a wave of citizen-led drilling bans, state officials, energy companies and industry groups are taking Longmont and other municipalities to court, forcing local governments into what critics say are expensive, long-shot efforts to defend the measures."

Longmont has already spent $136,000 to defend its measure banning hydraulic fracturing, Healy reports: "In July, a district court judge tossed out the ban, and the city is appealing." In August the City Council voted unanimously to defend the fracking ban. Many believe the town is facing a losing battle against powerful opponents with deep pockets and plenty of influence over state politicians, Healy writes: "Bryan Baum, a former mayor who opposed the ban, predicted that it would fall at every level of appeal, including at the Colorado Supreme Court, because only the state can regulate drilling."

Dale Bruns, a consultant for TOP Operating Company, the main oil-and-gas operator in Longmont, which is suing the city, told Healy, “There’s absolutely no question that what the city did is illegal. Longmont just repeatedly shoots itself in the foot. You’ve got a bunch of people who are just adamant that fossil fuel is bad, and it’s terrible for Longmont. This minority group has fired up the public with false claims.” (NYT photo by Luke Sharrett: Gas well in Longmont)

In Colorado the energy industry, "which argues that cities lack the authority to outlaw fracking, has already won rulings overturning three fracking prohibitions," Healy writes. And Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was re-elected in November, has been a big supporter of the practice, saying he will do whatever it takes to beat anti-fracking initiatives.

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