Today, the controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing will be decided on by voters in ballot measure 2A. If passed the ordinance would ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, i.e. “fracking,” and the storage of its waste products in Fort Collins and in the public lands outside city limits that the city controls for five years.
Those that support the ordinance cite health concerns for people and the environment as their driving motivation. Those against do not believe fracking presents health hazards, do not want to impede on profitable business and/or do not want to incur a lawsuit.
City Council member Gerry Horak is concerned about the passage of 2A because technically this issue is not a matter of city control — the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is regulated by the state.
In essence, the city would pay for any possible lawsuit and may be required to allow fracking depending on lawsuits. This also leaves the possibility open that natural gas operations will be less regulated than they currently are, according to Horak.
This issue has been debated by City Council in the past. According to two resolutions passed by City Council, Fort Collins placed a moratorium on applications for drilling in city limits and prohibited fracking and waste storage within city limits. However, City Council later voted to allow one exception to the moratorium, allowing a previously established miner to continue operations, thus avoiding a lawsuit against the city.
Horak voted for the ban in March and also for the exception in May, citing the fact that more stringent regulations were requested in the initial ban and were included in the “Operator Agreement.”
“The Operator Agreement has 2-3 times greater regulations than required by the state,” Horak said.
The 2A initiative was created by the group Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins in reaction to City Council’s decision to allow the one exception. According to their website HelathyFoCo.com, they collected 8,000 signatures by citizens of Fort Collins, twice the necessary amount, and submitted the initiative to City Council on Aug. 5th to place the initiative on this November’s ballot.
“We have no notion that these more stringent regulations will be adequate to protect the public health,” said
John Gascoyne, the press contact for Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins.
Gascoyne’s concern is that the chemicals used in fracking are not fully disclosed by the corporations, thus it is impossible to know what is safe.
He also notes that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is exempt from the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Gascoyne, a lawyer himself, is more concerned about public health than litigation against the city.
“Litigation is a two-way street – counterclaims are always a possibility,” Gascoyne said.
Collegian Staff Reporter Daniel Sewell can be reached at email@example.com