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Hickenlooper Sues Over Fracking
Dated: February 28 2013
This is disturbing and in my opinion over reaching. Here in Routt County, some of the most beautiful country in North America and whose economy depends on keeping it that way shouldnt we have the right to decide our fate when it comes to big oil?
Gov. John Hickenlooper isn't mincing words when it comes to what he will do to communities that try to ban fracking: He will sue them.
The governor's spokesman, Eric Brown, confirmed to the Denver iJournal that Hickenlooper won't stand for cities and counties that pass regulations outlawing the controversial oil and gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking. Longmont has already approved such a ban and Fort Collins passed one on first reading last week.
"The governor takes no joy in suing local government," Brown wrote in an email on Wednesday. "As a former mayor [of Denver] he respects local planning and control. He also has an obligation to uphold the law. The governor wants to be honest with local communities about the state’s legal obligations. Bans like the one under consideration in Fort Collins violate state law."
Hickenlooper's tough talk was first reported hours ago on Denver television station, CBS Channel 4. CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd sat down with the governor who told her that fracking bans constitute a taking of mineral rights from any person, group or business that might own them.
The Colorado Oil & Gas Association, which is a trade group, has sued Longmont, asking a judge to overturn the city's voter-approved ban on fracking because it is blocking $500 million in tappable resources. In December, the governor said the state wouldn't pursue a lawsuit against Longmont's ban on fracking but it would support anyone who did. Separately, the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — which is an extension of the Hickenlooper administration — sued Longmont over legislation the city council passed in July that set stricter drilling regulations than the ones state regulators implemented.
Hickenlooper and the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission are regularly accused of being too cozy with the industry they oversee. An analysis by the environmental group Earthworks revealed that of the 516 oil and gas spills in Colorado in 2011, the state commission only assessed five fines.
In the Fort Collins area near Windsor earlier this month, 84,000 gallons of fracking fluid spilled.
There are growing concerns about the impacts fracking has on health and the environment. The process involves the flushing of huge volumes of water, along with chemicals, underground to free oil and gas from hard-to-reach places. Residents whose homes are sometimes only a few hundred feet from the operations have complained of health problems in addition to the around-the-clock noise, traffic detours and pollution that accompany them. There have been multiple large anti-fracking marches in Colorado.
Earlier this month, the governor testified before a Senate committee that he and industry representatives passed fracking fluid "around the table, almost ritual-like, [and drank it] in a funny way" in November 2011. He said it didn't taste good but that it didn't cause him any harm either. An uproar ensued and Hickenlooper immediately clarified in a letter to constituents that despite what he said at the Senate committee hearing it "is not to imply that anyone would drink the frack fluid being used today."
There are no mixed messages, however, when it comes to cities and counties that don't fall in line with the state's rules on oil and gas drilling. The governor's lawyers will come after them.
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