Proposal would let communities ban fracking, other businesses

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DENVER — The same group behind Lafayette’s fracking moratorium has submitted paperwork to put a measure on the November ballot that would allow cities across Colorado to block oil and gas development — and any other business it views as a threat to the community’s health, safety and overall well-being.

The proposed amendment to the state constitution, which is still pending review in two weeks, was filed Tuesday by the Colorado Community Rights Network, a group of anti-fracking activists.

Cliff Wilmeng, the registered agent on the initiative and a passionate critic of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s broad support for the oil and gas industry, told FOX31 Denver that the measure doesn’t expressly ban hydraulic fracturing, the controversial oil and gas drilling technique in which a pressurized mix of water, sand and chemicals is injected deep beneath the surface to loosen mineral deposits for extraction.

“The measure doesn’t ban anything,” Wilmeng said. “You can’t find a single industry that’s banned. What it does is recognize a community’s legal superiority and democratic will to corporate interests.”

Wilmeng said the ordinance was written with an eye on other projects that have gone forward due to state support, despite local opposition, including a recent effort to ban cyanide in gold mining up in Summit County that was thwarted by the state.

“If the only way a corporate project can get accomplished is through state force at the cost of self-determination, that project shouldn’t be occurring to begin with,” Wilmeng said.

As citizens have watched massive oil derricks pop up just a stone’s throw from their homes and schools all across the northern Front Range, several cities, including Fort Collins Broomfield, Longmont, and Boulder, have passed bans, moratoria or ordinances to limit or stop drilling.

Hickenlooper’s administration believes that current law gives the state sole power to regulate oil and gas drilling.

The governor and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association have sued Longmont over its ordinance and a fracking ban.

The recent discovery of an estimated 3.8 billion barrels of oil in the Niobrara Shale has fueled a sudden boom in oil and gas development across Northern Colorado, with companies spending $4 billion in 2013 and planning to invest even more in the next several years in anticipation of a fast, full return on that investment.

Those close to the industry believe an amendment allowing municipalities to ban drilling would cost Colorado thousands of jobs and hundreds of million dollars in annual severance tax revenues.

But the ballot measure being filed may spur state lawmakers to craft legislation this session that settles the conflict between the rights of a community of property owners and those who own the minerals beneath them.

To put the measure on the November ballot, supporters must collect 86,105 valid signatures by August.


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