Movement To Ban Fracking In Colorado Continues Despite Obstacles

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Photo: Fracking

Last week, the outgoing head of the largest oil and gas industry trade group in Colorado said she thinks the statewide debate over drilling no longer centers around banning hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

"I do not think that we’ll see efforts to ban fracking that will have meaningful support or momentum behind them. I do think that that is a concept that has passed," Colorado Oil & Gas Association President and CEO Tisha Schuller told Colorado Matters. Schuller is leaving COGA at the end of this month after five and a half years at the helm.

In recent years, several Colorado cities voted to ban fracking, but courts have ruled against those bans. Some cities are challenging the rulings. And, Gov. John Hickenlooper's Oil and Gas Task Force declined to put significant limits on drilling in its recommendations earlier this year.

Karen Dike is trying to prove Schuller wrong and continue momentum to ban fracking in the state. She's a spokeswoman for Coloradans Against Fracking, which launched in February. She says Coloradans have legitimate concerns about the health, safety and environmental impacts of fracking and that Colorado could meet its energy needs using only renewable sources like wind and solar power, pointing to an analysis by Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson.

Dike spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.

Editor's note: Dike said the state government is suing citizens "across the state" over local bans on fracking. The state joined a lawsuit to overturn Longmont's ban on fracking, but has not joined industry lawsuits against other communities, such as Broomfield, Lafayette and Fort Collins. Dike also said that oil and gas operators don't have to follow federal environmental regulations like the Clear Air and Water Acts. The industry is partially exempted -- but not completely -- from those laws.

Karen Dike on the means her organization is pursuing

"The movement is far from gone. We have a large, active movement with businessmen, farmers, environmentalists, grassroots organizations... We're looking at, 'What can we do to remove fracking from Colorado? ... Do we work city to city? Community to community? Do we just work on the election cycle, and look at, how can we elect people who are politically against fracking?'"

On what's changed since court cases created precedent in Colorado that local bans on fracking are illegal

"There was a case, 20-some years ago, before fracking changed to be the heavy, industrialized process that it is now, that ruled against bans... and so we're hoping that as we move forward the citizens' voices will be heard."

On the perception that people who advocate for fracking bans, but use fossil fuels, are hypocritical

"The real question should be 'Why, in the 21st century, are we reliant on 18th century technology?' And the reason is we have so many people fighting against looking at renewables that it's difficult to exist in this country without being reliant on fossil fuels... What we need to do is to turn our thinking around and move towards renewables."