Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says he understands citizen concerns about neighborhood gas drilling but maintains that passing local laws restricting the activity is the wrong way to address the problem.
“The fracking ban votes reflect the genuine anxiety and concern of having an industrial process close to neighborhoods,” Hickenlooper said in an email to the Independent. “Yet local fracking bans essentially deprive people of their legal rights to access the property they own. Our state Constitution protects these rights.
“A framework exists for local communities to work collaboratively with state regulators and the energy industry. We all share the same desire of keeping communities safe.
“These bans may or may not result in new legal challenges from mineral rights holders, individual companies or others. No matter what happens we won’t stop working with local governments and supporting regulations that can be a national model for protecting public health and safety.”
It’s the same position the governor has held for years, as oil-and-gas drillers have spread across the Front Range.
As the industry taps enormous reserves of valuable methane in a hydraulic-fracturing boom and encroaches on farm and residential land, citizen patience has grown thin — and so has faith that state and local lawmakers can effectively stand up to the powerful oil and gas industry.
Residents in Longmont, Boulder, Lafayette, Fort Collins and now Broomfield have bypassed lawmakers and used the ballot initiative process to impose moratoriums on drilling as well as outright bans within city limits.
Hickenlooper, a former oil-industry geologist, has drawn sharp criticism for his opposition to the bans. He believes it is the state’s responsibility to regulate the industry and that a patchwork of varying regulations will tangle up a major state industry unnecessarily. He has become the face of an ongoing unpopular lawsuit to lift Longmont’s ban.
Political observers watching the tide shift in liberal northern Colorado say Democrat Hickenlooper has real work to do to reassure voters before the 2014 election.