Colorado’s energy industry trade group is now involved on three fronts with lawsuits over voter approved fracking bans or moratoriums. The latest move involved the announcement of suits against Lafayette and Fort Collins.
A lawsuit is already pending against the city of Longmont for a ban approved in 2012. Some in the state say a lawsuit is the wrong way to go.
“People feel like they want to have a say and that’s going to require legislation and a change to what we have now,” said Representative Mike Foote (D-Lafayette). “People aren’t all that happy with how things are going with oil and gas drilling.”
As drilling moves into Front Range communities that haven’t experienced it before, concern is rising. Foote says he wishes the industry had found another way to work with communities who are worried about impacts to the environment and public health.
“It’s unfortunate that they have to engage them by suing them,” said Foote.
Democratic Congressman Jared Polis's district encompasses all five communities that have passed restrictions. He called on the industry to drop the lawsuits, saying it shows complete disrespect to the Democratic process. Polis also says these communities have a right to decide what happens within their borders.
“Look there’s been a public debate; there’s been a vote,” said Polis. “You don’t win friends by disregarding a public vote and suing to get your way.”
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association says it didn’t want to sue but felt it had no choice.
“Instead of working constructively with the industry and city leaders, extremists have used fear and misinformation to get cities to pass bans which they know are illegal,” said Tisha Schuller the president of COGA. She calls the fracking bans regrettable.
The lawsuits come at a time when the industry is embarking on a greater push to win the hearts and minds of the public and try to educate people about the benefits of low cost domestic energy. Companies also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the fracking bans.
“There are over 100,000 families in Colorado that rely on the oil and gas industry for their livelihoods, these bans effectively stop oil and gas development in those communities,” said Schuller.
Schuller also adds the bans are illegal because the state constitution allows Colorado to develop resources such as oil and gas. Governor John Hickenlooper recently sympathized with industry concerns.
“What we’ve said from the beginning, our state constitution guarantees people the right to access their minerals, that’s the split estate,” said Hickenlooper. “Our job is to make sure we work in partnership with the industry.”
The governor’s office is stopping short of joining the latest round of industry lawsuits. Colorado is already suing the city of Longmont over the same issue in a trial that is scheduled to being Aug. 11.
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