Oil industry responds to fracking ban ballot initiative

FORT COLLINS – A decision by the Fort Collins City Council to authorize a special election on whether to pass a hydraulic fracturing moratorium has drawn ire from oil industry representatives.

Residents will vote Nov. 5 whether to pass a five-year fracking ban in the city following Tuesday night’s unanimous vote by City Council. Fracking involves pumping water containing sand and chemicals into a drilled hole deep underground to free oil and natural gas trapped in shale formations.

The vote comes after Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins submitted a petition with more than 8,000 signatures to the city earlier this month calling for an ordinance enacting a moratorium. The activist group contends that fracking threatens people’s health and property values.

“It’s hypocritical to say, ‘Well, our community doesn’t want to be participating in the development of the resources we use everyday and that somebody else’s community ought to be producing that energy,’´ said Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association.

Scott Hall, CEO of Prospect Energy, a subsidiary of Black Diamond Minerals LLC in Denver, pointed out that the city already had banned fracking except for individual agreements with operators approved by City Council. Prospect Energy is the only oil producer who has such an agreement with the city.  

“This entire effort really just impacts us,” Hall said. “Prospect Energy works very hard to be a good neighbor and prides itself on going above and beyond regulatory requirements.”

He noted that the company, which won an environment protection award from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission this month, will install steel fixtures around its oil tanks to contain spills and also plans to perform air testing.

Prospect Energy aims to drill six new wells in the Fort Collins Field and has leased 1,150 acres for oil development near the Anheuser-Busch brewery. Prospect Energy does not know how many wells it may drill on the acreage or when it might drill them, Hall said.

Ray Martinez, former mayor of Fort Collins, said he registered this week with the city a political action committee, Fort Collins Alliance for Reliable Energy. He intends for the organization to “provide a complete story on homegrown energy.”

He fears that a moratorium would place Fort Collins in legal hot water if voters pass a moratorium that breaks the city’s agreement with Prospect Energy.

“Banning is not a plan,” he said. “It’s really a radical approach that goes against how we do things.”

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