Hickenlooper, Jones to debate on fracking

DENVER – Should the state of Colorado be able to overrule local governments on regulation of oil and gas extraction companies’ use of hydraulic fracturing?

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones will debate the issue at a forum to be held Monday. April 1, at the University of Denver.

The process of hydraulic fracturing – popularly known as “fracking” – involves oil and gas companies pumping water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure to fracture rock and loosen oil and gas deposits. Opponents of the process point to potential environmental and health impacts, including contamination of groundwater, risks to air quality, the migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface and surface contamination from spills and flowback.

Oil and gas reserves under Longmont are estimated at $500 million by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, excluding royalties and taxes. However, 60 percent of Longmont voters in November approved Measure 100, which banned fracking – as well as the storage and disposal of fracking waste – within the city limits. That vote prompted the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to sue the city, carrying out a threat issued by Hickenlooper to local governments across the state. Earlier this month, the Fort Collins City Council voted 5-2 to defy the governor and back Longmont in the suit.

However, Lakewood-based TOP Operating Co. LLC, which does most of the oil and gas drilling in the Wattenberg Field that includes the Longmont area, asked to join the state commission’s suit against Longmont. In its proposed complaint, TOP said the city’s ban “affects and renders impossible” its plans to drill in Longmont, including wells approved by the city council months before last year’s election.

COGA filed the suit in December in Weld County, where municipal and county officials have looked more kindly on fracking. However, 19th Judicial District Judge Daniel Maus on March 8 granted Longmont’s request for a change of venue, meaning the case now will be heard in Boulder County.

In her campaign for her post on the Boulder County Board of Commissioners, Jones wrote on her website, “I support a fossil fuel-free energy future that is based on clean energy sources like renewables and energy efficiency: no fracking, no drilling, no spilling.” Hickenlooper counters that, “If you care about climate change, it’s morally wrong not to recognize how rapidly (natural gas) could mitigate the effects” of greenhouse gas emissions.

Monday’s event, “Who Should Regulate Hydraulic Fracturing in Colorado,” will be held from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room 165 at the Frederick H. Ricketson Jr. Law Building on the DU campus, 2255 East Evans Ave., Denver. The forum is sponsored by DU’s Sturm College of Law’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law program, the Natural Resources and Environmental Law Society and the law firm of Holland and Hart.

Although the forum is free and open to the public, registration is recommended at https://securelb.imodules.com/s/1150/index_2col.aspx?sid=1150&gid=1&pgid=5095&cid=8261.


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