Boulder, Colorado defies governor, halts fracking for one year

Boulder became the latest Colorado municipality to buck Gov. John Hickenlooper’s insistence that only the state can regulate hydraulic fracturing — an insistence backed up by his threat to sue any city that defies the edict — by passing a one-year moratorium on fracking within city limits or on city-owned Open Space.

Though it falls short of an outright ban of the sort that voters in nearby Longmont approved in November, Boulder city council members said they were open to considering putting a full ban to a vote of the people. Longmont’s move earned the city two lawsuits.

The Daily Camera reports that of the approximately 40 people who spoke before the council on Wednesday, only one supported fracking.

Hickenlooper has been adamant in his insistence that the controversial practice for extracting natural gas from deep below the ground is safe.

The governor told Congress in February that he once drank Halliburton fracking fluid — on purpose — and lived to tell about it.

He’s also been firm that regulatory authority for the oil and gas industry lies solely with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Several measures that would have hurt the oil and gas companies — by raising fees and penalties, increasing inspections and improving oversight — either died or were gutted in the legislature earlier this year, but are sure to be resurrected in future sessions.

Despite Hickenlooper’s tough talk, Longmont isn’t the only community to turn on fracking. Fort Collins City Council banned fracking in March, but buckled under the threat of legal action.

The city replaced the ban with new rules for the only company operating there that are tougher than what’s required by the state’s regulatory agency. Numerous cities and counties have passed moratoria to put a temporary halt to the practice.

While Boulder’s move isn’t as bold as some environmentalists demanded, Councilwoman KC Becker said it’s up to voters to make a statement to state government about fracking.

The council also gave preliminary approval to prevent any of Boulder’s water supply from being used for fracking.

Doug Flanders, a spokesman for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in February that fracking bans leave mineral rights owners little choice but to go to court.

“If there is no oil and gas development, the owners of those mineral rights have to, in some form or fashion, be compensated for that loss,” he said, “because there is no way to get to those minerals for the purpose of extraction.”

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