When the town of Longmont, Colorado banned hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the storage of fracking waste within their city limits, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry group, filed suit.
On November 6, Longmont residents approved Article 16 in the city charter, which bans both fracking and the storage of fracking waste within the city limits. At first, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper told state attorneys to sue Longmont. On December 6, he changed his mind and said the state would provide industry groups with friend-of-the-court briefs and other forms of support, but would not sue the city.
Longmont is already being sued by the state of Colorado over regulations passed in July. The regulations include restrictions on surface drilling in residential zones. Colorado is arguing that this usurps the state’s power and a district court judge in Boulder County has let the case move forward.
The state of Colorado has rules requiring that wells must be at least 150 feet from a property line in a rural area and 350 feet from a high density building. However, there is a loophole that says that any previously drilled location can be reused without complying with the setback rules. This has resulted in a number of active wells located very close to people’s homes in the middle of residential neighborhoods. A number of studies have been conducted on the effects of fracking on the environment and the chemicals used in the process. People are right not to want it in their neighborhoods.
Longmont is not the only town in Colorado trying to establish a reasonable distance between the drilling and their homes and schools. It’s the first to pass a law about it and it looks like this case will set a precedent.
Natural gas well photo via Shutterstock