Colorado town wants to ban fracking, but can it?
I expect this case is being watched with bated breath by every extraction professional. Why, if people can decide that they don't want their land smashed up and filled with bizarre and toxic chemicals so a corporation can ship gas to China, what will happen to America?
But this month, Longmont became the first town in Colorado to outlaw hydraulic fracturing, the oil-drilling practice commonly known as fracking. The ban has propelled Longmont to the fiercely contested forefront of the nation’s antifracking movement, inspiring other cities to push for similar prohibitions.
But it has also set the city on a collision course with oil companies and the State of Colorado.
“People really didn’t think through this too well,” Mayor Dennis L. Coombs said, sounding weary at the prospect of an onslaught of lawsuits. “We are where we are. I guess you have to respect the people.”
In a way, Longmont’s fracking ban is in a position similar to Colorado’s ballot measure legalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. Both are lessons in the promise and peril of populism: both initiatives sailed through on Election Day despite opposition from the authorities, and both now face legal scrutiny and fights at all levels of government.
Gov. John W. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has warned Longmont residents that the ban is likely to mean a lawsuit from the state, which insists that only it has the authority to regulate drilling. Already this summer, Colorado sued Longmont over earlier city rules that limit drilling near schools and homes.
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