FORT COLLINS The Fort Collins City Council has banned fracking within city limits, throwing down the gauntlet for possible legal action while other communities wrestling with the issue try to avoid confrontation.
The council voted Tuesday to impose the ban, even though state officials have said such restrictions violate the states authority over natural-gas and oil regulation.
Mayor pro tem Kelly Ohlson said state regulators have no credibility with him, nor does the governor.
I believe the governor should spend his time protecting the health and safety and welfare of citizens of Colorado rather than acting like the chief lobbyist for the oil and gas industry. In fact, I think he should literally quit drinking the fracking Kool-Aid, Ohlson said.
Gov. John Hickenloopers spokesman Eric Brown said Wednesday the next steps have not been determined.
The governor takes no joy in suing local government. As a former mayor, he respects local planning and control. He also has an obligation to uphold the law. The governor wants to be honest with local communities about the states legal obligations. Bans like the one passed in Fort Collins violate state law, Brown said.
Property in Colorado is often divided between those who own the surface of the land and those who own the resources underground. Surface owners are required to provide reasonable access to mineral-rights owners who want to recover the resources they own.
Hickenlooper told The Coloradoan of Fort Collins on Wednesday that hes not sure what option the state has other than to sue Fort Collins for banning fracking. Hickenlooper also said hes open to suggestions for allowing a city to ban access to minerals within city limits while compensating mineral-rights owners for the loss.
Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, had urged the council to consider private property rights in making its decision. The inability of a person to develop that mineral estate will be what leads folks to challenge your decision from a litigation standpoint. We think its a very important point, Dempsey said.
Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman for the Colorado Attorney Generals Office, said attorneys will meet with state officials soon to discuss potential next steps.
Meanwhile, the Loveland City Council approved incentives Tuesday for drilling companies to follow higher standards than state regulations require, while not imposing conditions that would cause court challenges.
In Lafayette, anti-fracking activists turned up the heat on elected leaders Tuesday, submitting a petition with nearly 1,000 signatures that demands an immediate moratorium on any new drilling activity in the city.
Officials there say they want residents to have a chance to vote this November on what role natural-gas and oil drilling should play in Lafayette, as Longmont did last year when voters there chose to ban hydraulic fracturing inside city lines.
The city of Longmont is being sued by the state for its strict regulation of drilling. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, which represents the industrys interests, is suing Longmont over its fracking ban.
Hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, involves blasting a mix of water, chemicals and sand deep into the ground to free natural gas and oil. Residents have questioned whether the process is threatening public health and environment.
The industry says the technique has been used safely for decades. The Environmental Protection Agency is studying potential effects of fracking.