Gov. Hickenlooper Backs State Regulators Against Triple Creek Fracking Lawsuit

Photo: Drilling Fracking Mead Longmont Rig (STAFF)
A drilling rig operates right next to I-25 on Nov. 3, 2015 just north of Longmont.

In response to a lawsuit announced on Friday against Colorado's oil and gas regulators, Gov. John Hickenlooper says he is confident that the agency followed the rules when it approved construction of 22 wells and oil tanks near a Greeley neighborhood recently.

Residents of Triple Creek are suing to try to stop the development. They say that the state ignored its own requirements that the developer, Extraction Oil and Gas, lessen the impact on the local community by considering alternative sites for production and using the best available technologies, like installing pipelines instead of relying on trucks to transport the oil and gas.

"Our understanding is that the process was followed carefully and got a certain level of results, but not enough results to satisfy the local community members," the governor told Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner on Monday.

The requirements at the center of the lawsuit were adopted in 2015 by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission based on recommendations of a task force convened by Hickenlooper. The task force's goal was to ease tensions among oil and gas producers and the communities where they operate. Despite the lawsuit, Hickenlooper believes the new rules could still work for communities and the industry.

"One lawsuit doesn't mean the thing's a failure," he said.

He said he is open to making changes to the rules, but doesn't think that will happen as a result of litigation.

"If there's a better way of doing things that is able to create an easier path to compromise, we're all for it," he said.

The governor added that he met a representative of the Triple Creek neighborhood group at a recent event, and that person presented him with details about the group's concerns.

Drilling in the area could start as early as December, according to the Greeley Tribune.