Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

Colorado Governor Threatens to Sue Cities That Ban Fracking

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Wednesday he will continue to take legal action against cities and counties that insist on passing bans on the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Hickenlooper reaffirmed that he intends to fight a patchwork of local ordinances regarding oil and natural gas drilling, such as last year's move in Longmont, CO (see Shale Daily, Aug. 17, 2012). And his remarks come as another city, Fort Collins, nears a ban (Shale Daily, Feb. 25). The state's suit against Longmont for attempting to usurp state prerogatives was filed July 30 in Boulder County District Court.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) also has threatened to take legal action in the Fort Collins case, and it already has in the case of Longmont's ballot measure banning fracking within the city's jurisdiction (see Shale Daily, Nov. 8, 2012). The COGA suit was filed Dec. 17 in a Weld County District Court. Longmont sits in two counties, Weld and Boulder.

Boulder accounted for just 0.12% (2.25 Bcf) of Colorado's total natural gas production and 0.43% (176.05 MBbl) of the state's oil production last year, according to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission data and NGI's Shale Daily calculations.

While environmentalists and local officials have criticized Hickenlooper for his pro-fracking stance, industry officials such as COGA CEO Tisha Schuller have defended him and urged Fort Collins City Council members to reject their recently passed ordinance when it comes up again.

The industry and government contend that Colorado's statewide rules for drilling, including fracking, are among the strongest in the nation. Hickenlooper argued that fracking can be done safely without endangering local water supplies or the general environment.

To that end, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission earlier in the year established new setback and water testing rules that go beyond what COGA and individual producers thought was necessary (see Shale Daily, Feb. 12).

In an interview with Denver CBS4 reporter Shaun Boyd on Wednesday, Hickenlooper said the bottom line for the state is that "someone paid money to buy mineral rights...and you can't harvest mineral rights without doing hydraulic fracturing, which I think we've domonstrated again and again can be done safely."

Therefore even though he is "less than happy" to file a lawsuit, he will do it again, and presumably in other instances if the issue keeps coming up over the state's primacy regarding the regulation of oil/gas drilling. State officials maintain that the issue has already been settled by the Colorado Supreme Court.

Environmentalists and others lined up against fracking point to a recent "spill" at a PDC Energy Inc. well a few miles north of Fort Collins. Critics call it a blowout, but the industry has downplayed it.

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