Loveland anti-fracking group still waiting for special election to halt drilling

LOVELAND, Colo. — They organized, they collected signatures, they won a ruling from a judge, but Protect Our Loveland likely will have to wait and weather more appeals before their petition for a two-year citywide halt on fracking can be put to a vote.

At a city council meeting last week, City Attorney John Duval questioned whether or not a district judge’s ruling on the group’s petitions could act as the “final determination” to trigger a special election, because the case will likely be appealed to higher courts. Duval said he will confer with the judge this week to ask for guidance on the ruling.

Protect Our Loveland submitted signatures last July in support of its ballot proposal, joining other municipalities across Colorado and the country that have successfully passed bans and moratoriums on the hydraulic fracturing drilling practice. But the petition was challenged by Larry Sarner, a Loveland resident, who protested the effort first to the city clerk and then in district court. Loveland city council voted 5 to 4 to delay putting the ordinance up for a special vote until the judge ruled on Sarner’s appeal.

“I deemed the petitions sufficient,” said city clerk Terry Andrews. “And Mr. Sarner came forward and protested four issues. The judge ruled that I acted appropriately on all four counts.”

Now that the judge has ruled, Protect Our Loveland President Sharon Carlisle thinks the city is stalling.

“They’re trying to find ways to not act, again,” Carlisle said. “The majority of our city council have voted to block this issue in the past.”

In a city council meeting on the matter last week, Duval indicated that Sarner plans to appeal the ruling. Sarner has protested at previous council meetings that he is not Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s “lackey” but conceded that the industry lobby group “did step up and help with the legal considerations involved.” He said at the meeting in August that the oil-and-gas companies did not pay him to file the motion and that he challenged because he was concerned about the rule of law.

Sarner is an inventor who started a voting machine company that went bankrupt, though not before big name investors like media mogul Henry Luce’s son Peter Paul Luce and former Microsoft executive Peter Neupert got involved. He has worked to protest various health and mental health therapies, starting a program against attachment therapy and leading a 2006 battle in Boulder that would have taken fluoride out of the water. He also reportedly worked with Doug Bruce to pass TABOR in the early 1990s.

More recently, Sarner announced he will be running for Congress this year against Second-District Colorado Rep. Jared Polis.

Protect Our Loveland has hosted events over the past year on fracking in urban areas. Its efforts to land a moratorium on the ballot underline local efforts in Colorado to slow frenzied boom-time drilling. Activists highlight concerns about air quality and water contamination.

The state has joined with oil-and-gas companies to sue cities with active fracking bans in place.

[ Photo via Catherine Scott. ]


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