DENVER – Longmont residents voted Tuesday to ban hydraulic fracturing inside their city limits, a stand that will intensify the battle between the state and the city on who gets to regulate natural-gas and oil production.
Gov. John Hickenlooper predicted that private oil companies will sue the northern Colorado city to overturn the ban.
Hickenlooper, an advocate of natural gas, said the fuel is essential to cutting global-warming emissions, but it can’t be extracted without hydraulic fracturing.
“Fracking is essential to get that kind of resource out. It suggests to me that we have to do fracking, but we have to make sure that it’s absolutely safe,” Hickenlooper said.
His administration has already sued Longmont over a previous city ordinance that regulates drilling and bans it in residential areas. That lawsuit is working its way through the courts.
Legislators fought to a draw in early 2012 over whether the state or local governments should have more regulatory power over drilling.
Gwen Lachelt, head of the Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, said she wasn’t surprised at the Longmont vote.
“It was bound to happen,” said Lachelt, who is locked in a too-close-to-call race for a seat on the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners.
A new breed of gas and oil activists wants to ban fracking altogether, and Lachelt said these activists view her as pro-development because she advocates responsible drilling.
“They feel like they need to take action to protect their water supplies, because the state’s not looking out for them, and the federal government’s not looking out for them,” Lachelt said.
The state has not challenged La Plata County’s local gas and oil rules and agreements with gas companies. But if companies sue Longmont, La Plata might have to get involved to defend its regulations, depending on how broad the lawsuit is, Lachelt said.