KUSA-Under criticism for promising to sue local governments who ban fracking, Gov. John Hickenlooper offered an alternative Wednesday.
Many landowners in Colorado do not own the mineral rights (which includes oil and gas) beneath their land. Those rights often belong to companies.
Fracking bans infringe on those rights, Hickenlooper argues.
"You just can't take that from somebody without compensating them," the governor said. "So let's figure out a way that Fort Collins can take those mineral rights, but make sure they have fair compensation to the people that own them."
The governor's idea for a compromise could be complicated. It would come with a high price tag and it's unclear who might pay it.
While fracking opponents view this as a positive development, they're still unhappy that Hickenlooper supported the lawsuits.
"The governor is choosing to side with the oil and gas industry," said Pete Maysmith of Conservation Colorado, who would rather have seen the governor sit out this fight.
Longmont is already facing cases from the state government and the oil industry. The same fate likely awaits Fort Collins, where the city council voted Tuesday to ban fracking.
Maysmith isn't certain that fracking bans will be politically possible. Instead, he's focused on regulating fracking for what he considers a batter balance of the environmental risks with the economic benefit.
"We've tipped way too far. We've got this 'drill at all cost' sort of mantra," Maysmith said.
In the coming weeks, Maysmith says we'll see proposals in the state legislature to increase the number of well inspectors and impose tougher penalties for violations.
That's an idea the industry and the governor are willing to consider.
"We're going to keep raising the fines and holding the oil and gas companies accountable," Hickenlooper said.
The devil will be in the details.
Maysmith also wants to change the law so local governments can enact stricter regulation of fracking, if not impose an outright ban.
That idea may face a tougher challenge among politicians.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)