DENVER - The fracking (hydraulic fracturing) bans in Fort Collins and Lafayette have prompted legal action from the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA).
A COGA spokesperson calls the bans illegal. COGA's Doug Flanders says that's because the Colorado Supreme Court has "ruled that oil and gas development, which must employ hydraulic fracturing or fracking, supersedes local laws and cannot be banned."
"It is regrettable and unfortunate that COGA had to take this action. There are over 100,000 families that rely on the oil and gas industry for their livelihoods and these bans effectively stop oil and gas development," Tisha Schuller, President and CEO of COGA, said. "With 95 percent of all wells in Colorado hydraulically fractured, any ban on fracking is a ban on oil and gas development, and the State Supreme Court has clearly stated bans are illegal in Colorado."
Michael Bellmont, a member of 'Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont,' contends that the city of Longmont has a constitutional right to ban fracking to protect public health.
"A rational, conscientious person will actively protect the health and well being of their loved ones and their community from any activity that has been repeatedly proven to be dangerous," Bellmont said. "Such reasonable action by mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers, nurses, business owners, etc. can be seen as extreme only from the perpetrators of such threatening activities that stand to gain financially from their dangerous operations."
"That COGA has had to take this action further demonstrates the huge disservice self-described 'fractivists' have done to our communities in promoting energy bans. Instead of working constructively with industry and city leaders, extremists have used fear and misinformation to lure cities into passing bans which they know are illegal and will cost staff time and taxpayer money," Schuller added. "If there was any other way to deal with the blatant illegality of these bans, our members would certainly pursue it."
'Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmong' spearheaded a ballot measure last year. The November 2012 election resulted in a vote by the people to amend the city charter to ban fracking. The measure passed by approximately 60 percent. The 2013 vote was much closer, prompting COGA's legal action.
"I am a responsible citizen, business owner, community member and father who worked long hours on the Longmont fracking ban without compensation to actively protect my family and community," Bellmont said. "I have met hundreds of similar concerned citizens around the state that have given of themselves without remuneration in the interest of their communities. We would rather be spending that time at home with our families and earning our living. The tragedy is that, the recent hard earned citizen initiatives to restrict fracking are a necessary last resort born out of the frustration of having a government, supposedly charged with the protection of the people, that actually promotes this proven dangerous industrial activity next to our schools, homes, and places of recreation."
Bellmont is working hard to fight against the property rights claim.
"COGA, Governor Hickenlooper, and the COGCC all loudly proclaim that the singular property rights of mineral interest holders trump all other rights of citizens, even in time honored self determining Home Rule Communities like Fort Collins, Longmont, Lafayette, and Boulder," Bellmont said.
All aspects of drilling, including fracking, is regulated in Colorado. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is the lead agency for oil and gas oversight.
"We recognize and appreciate that citizens of Fort Collins and Lafayette are concerned about the safety of their environment. As fellow Coloradans raising our families here, so are we. Civic leaders and public officials across the state have said a ban is one of the most irresponsible ways to address public concerns over energy development," Schuller said.
The City of Fort Collins put a five-year ban on all fracking within city limits. Therefore, there is a conflict between the city's ban and state law. COGA argues that Fort Collins has no constitutional authority to implement regulations on oil and gas development, including fracking.
Flanders says that according to the state Supreme Court - "Colorado law preempts the local regulations when an issue constitutes a mixed state and local concern."
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)