Colorado House Turns Back Fracking Local Control Bill

Colorado's Democrat-led House has defeated a bill to reassert local government control over the siting of oil and gas drilling.

The bill became another platform for debate Monday over how to regulate fracking in Front Range urban and suburban areas.

Democratic Reps. Mike Foote of Lafayette and Su Ryden of Aurora co-sponsored the House bill. They argued it would allow local governments to regulate the location of drilling rigs using their noise, traffic and visual impact codes.

Opponents said those powers already were outlined by a gubernatorial task force on fracking and that the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission considers local impacts in siting rigs.

Opponents also said it wasn't time for the bill because the state Supreme Court is considering the legality of a City of Longmont fracking ban.

The debate over drilling isn't going away, though.

In March, Greeley's City Council approved a plan to drill 22 oil and gas wells inside city limits.  The council heard hours of testimony over the controversial project -- most of it in opposition, but ultimately sided with drillers by a 5-2 vote. The city's planning commission had originally rejected the project, but Extraction Oil and Gas appealed the decision to the City Council. 

Last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper said last week he would not sign a bill that would make it easier to residents to sue oil and gas companies for damage caused by earthquakes induced by operations that pump wastewater down into underground wells.

Meanwhile, backers of a proposal that would let local governments regulate or ban fracking have won approval to circulate petitions to put it on the November ballot. They have until Aug. 8 to gather more than 98,000 signatures. If they succeed, voters would approve or reject the proposal in the Nov. 8 general election.