Citizens in cities on Colorado’s front range are pushing back against the fracking boom by passing ballot measures to either prohibit the practice or ban it temporarily.
The town of Longmont was the first in Colorado to ban fracking in 2012, when voters changed their city charter to prohibit it. Governor John Hickenlooper’s administration then sued Longmont over their ban, claiming only the state has the authority to regulate drilling.
Despite the lawsuit, in 2013 even more Colorado cities passed anti-fracking ballot measures. Fort Collins passed a five year moratorium on fracking within city limits, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) sued Fort Collins over the measure less than one month after it passed. By a close vote, the city of Broomfield narrowly passed a ballot measure similar to Fort Collins’.
After a recount determined Broomfield’s measure had passed by 17 votes out of more than 20,000 cast, COGA sued Broomfield, too, saying only the state can regulate drilling.
Boulder citizens voted 78 percent in favor of extending an existing moratorium on fracking by five more years, and by a margin of 60.1 to 39.9 percent, Lafayette voters amended their city charter to make fracking for energy development out-and-out illegal. COGA sued Lafayette, too, at the same time it sued Fort Collins.
So far, Boulder has escaped a lawsuit since there currently are no active wells there. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), whose district contains all of these embattled cities, defended their efforts to ban fracking within their borders. Polis posted a YouTube video in which he tells COGA to stop their lawsuits, saying it’s “unAmerican” for COGA to sue Colorado communities “just because they didn’t like the outcome at the ballot box.”
Polis says he agrees with the industry’s efforts to win over the hearts and minds of Colorado residents, but “when you don’t get your way, you don’t win friends by suing people.”
Polis acknowledges the energy industry’s importance to the country, but tells COGA, “You can’t just simply attack and bully your way to success… As long as the industry continues to bully our towns and cities and force them to have fracking where they don’t even want it, it’s not going to get very far in this state.”