Longmont, state should compromise on fracking

The city of Longmont has made a bold case for local control over some aspects of hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking.” State officials have countered with a lawsuit, arguing that some of Longmont’s measures overstep what is permitted in terms of local regulations.

Longmont recently implemented several measures to control the effects of fracking, whereby treated water is injected into the ground to fracture shale, thereby releasing fossil fuels. The practice is being implemented across the country, with the Niobrara formation in Colorado and Wyoming a hotspot for fracking activity.

Communities such as Longmont are concerned about the environmental and health effects of fracking. As reporter Michael Davidson noted in a recent article, Longmont’s measures have included excluding drilling in residential areas and requiring companies to use directional drilling.

The state attorney general’s office filed suit against Longmont July 30, arguing that some of the measures conflict with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s power to regulate the industry.

Both sides have valid arguments. The oil-and-gas industry seeks to avoid a patchwork of environmental regulations across the state that would make compliance difficult, and the state seeks to preserve its authority to regulate the sector.

On the other hand, communities such as Longmont are closest to the effects of fracking and deserve more say in how the practice occurs within municipal boundaries. Gov. John Hickenlooper has expressed a desire to see a compromise in the dispute, and we hope his appeal bears fruit.

There should be a balance between a state agency’s powers and local governments’ desire to protect their citizens. Let’s find that balance and get this out of the courts.

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