Like any good Western politician, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper responded to a brewing revolt among communities considering a ban on the controversial practice of fracking by drawing a bright line in the sand and daring them to step over it.
He promised to sue any city that takes such measures. But unlike other Westerners of lore, Hickenlooper buckled when he was taken up on the challenge.
On Tuesday, the Fort Collins City Council voted to ban fracking within city limits, becoming the second city to do so after voters in nearby Longmont banned fracking at the ballot box in November.
But rather than slap the city with a lawsuit as promised, Hickenlooper told the local newspaper that he was ready to negotiate a deal that seems counter to what he hoped to accomplish with the strong-arm tactic, which is to keep regulation of the oil and gas industry under state control rather than leaving it to the whims of individual communities.
Hickenlooper told the Fort Collins Coloradoan that he’s willing to consider a deal in which the state would split the cost of compensating oil and gas companies for their potential losses with towns that ban fracking.
“When you ban fracking, you’re telling all those people that paid their money, their savings, their investments to get their mineral rights now they’re being taken away,” Hickenlooper said.
“Maybe there’s a way a community can put up some of the money, the state puts up some of the money,” he said.
The governor’s spokesman, Eric Brown, wrote in an email to the Daily Caller News Foundation that Hickenlooper hasn’t backpedaled on his threat to sue.
“There’s been no change in his position,” Brown wrote. “Compromise is always preferred over legal action.”