More than 100 current and former local Colorado government officials have banded together to formally request Gov. John Hickenlooper’s help in localizing control over oil and gas development.
La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt spearheaded the effort urging colleagues throughout the state to sign onto three letters and an email that made it to the desks of Chief Strategy Officer Alan Salazar and Hickenlooper on Wednesday.
“Oil and gas is an important part of our economy, but we can’t have it at the expense of our water and air quality,” said Lachelt, longtime activist and founder of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project.
In the letters, officials express a pressing need for a new approach to oil and gas development, one that will support health and safety and promote research to ensure long-term protection for Colorado communities.
According to Lachelt, Hickenlooper has consistently lobbied against a number of bills proposing to research and effectively minimize the environmental and overall health impacts of oil and gas development. One such measure, proposed by State Representative Joann Ginal, would have initiated a study about the impact of oil and gas extraction on human health.
“The Governor’s office squelched that as well,” said Ross Cunnif, Fort Collins City Councilmember.
Some local officials have spoken out in support of Hickenlooper’s efforts, and many have gone so far as to put that support in writing. On May 1, 122 present and former officials from across the state signed a letter encouraging Hickenlooper to stand strong in keeping oil and gas matters a state issue.
But, the officials who submitted their letters Wednesday are less interested in constraining development than in finding a middle ground, promoting development as well as safety and long-term benefits. The hope the process will recognize all voices, especially those at the local level.
“This is not an anti-oil and gas development letter,” Lachelt said. “What we’re asking is that the Governor spend time with local government officials to come to a better understanding of the folks on the frontlines of oil and gas development.”
So far, Hickenlooper has not shown this kind of support. In 2012, he sued Longmont for banning drilling for oil and gas within its residential neighborhoods. In February of this year, he announced in an interview with CBS4 that the state would sue any local government that attempted or proposed to ban fracking within its borders.
Though Hickenlooper was unavailable for comment Thursday, press contact Eric Brown assured that they would read the letters: “We value our relationship with local governments all across Colorado. We will carefully review the letter and respond appropriately.”