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Alex Mills: Colorado fights off calls for fracking ban

Alex Mills

Colorado is waking up to the realities of sensible development of its natural resources even though the anti-fossil fuel crowd continues its anti-development rhetoric.

A Colorado district court judge ruled recently that the city of Longmont cannot ban hydraulic fracturing because the ban directly conflicts with the state’s authority to regulate the oil and gas industry.

“The Court finds Article XVI of the Longmont Municipal Charter, which bans hydraulic fracturing and the storage and disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste in the City of Longmont, is invalid as preempted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act,” said Judge D.D. Mallard.

The ruling goes on to say that “Longmont’s ban on hydraulic fracturing prevents the efficient development and production of oil and gas resources.”

Additionally, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has been working hard to stop another effort to call a statewide vote to ban hydraulic fracturing.

Hickenlooper and the leader of the initiative, Democratic Congressman Jared Polis, announced last week that Polis will drop his support for two ballot initiatives that would limit hydraulic fracturing and in return Hickenlooper will establish a commission to advise the legislature about drilling complaints.

However, anti-development groups have not said if they will honor the negotiated settlement. They want to push forward with the initiative.

The politics of this issue has been raised to an extremely high level. In Colorado, particularly, the anti-development crowd has been very aggressive in pushing its movement to ban hydraulic fracturing. Today, about 90 percent of the wells drilled are fractured. Without the ability to fracture, drilling and production would decline dramatically. And so would the state’s economy and tax base.

Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, both Democrats, are facing strong opponents in the November general elections. Udall’s opponent, Cory Gardner, is pushing against the ban. He says Colorado has stringent regulations and he favors a “diverse energy portfolio.”

Here in Texas, meanwhile, the Denton City Council held a public hearing last month on a petition to ban hydraulic fracturing.

During the hearing, a former Texas Supreme Court Justice explained Texas mineral laws and the problems the city would encounter if it approved the ban. Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson notified the council that it could be sued by the state of Texas. State Sen. Craig Estes, who represents Denton, also advised the city council against endorsing the ban.

The council opted to let Denton voters decide the issue when they go to the polls Nov. 4.

Alex Mills is president of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.
 

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