From left to right: Attorney General Gary King of New Mexico, Attorney General Peter Michael of Wyoming and Attorney General John Suthers of Colorado. 

(Photo: CPR/Lesley McClurg)
The fracking boom in Colorado and other western states has attorneys general dealing with an evolving and thorny set of legal and public policy issues.

About a dozen attorneys general met in Denver yesterday for a first-ever gathering on fracking, sponsored by the Conference of Western Attorneys General.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers hosted the event. He called Colorado ground zero for the fracking debate. A key issue is state versus local control: There are 17 ballot proposals in Colorado right now that would limit fracking in some way, in addition to the four on the ballot in 2013.

Suthers says it's obvious that the public doesn't have confidence in state regulation of the industry.

But the state is fighting back. In 2012 Longmont passed a ballot initiative to limit drilling; the state has sued the city to prevent that ballot initiative from taking effect. If the court hearing that case rules that a ban on drilling is legal, Suthers says the case will likely end up in the appellate court, because local control of oil and gas development would make the industry too complicated to regulate.

Suthers says the federal government is behind the states in enacting smart regulations. He believes states have better expertise to lead regulatory policy.