Commerce City: Ban on hydraulic fracturing not in the cards

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Update: Barbara Green has posted a correction in the comments below.

From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

About 100 people wary of extraction operations near their homes listened quietly as they were told any effort to outlaw those procedures would likely be overturned by a judge. Attorney Barbara Green also said there is little a city can do to regulate the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. But cities can have a say over the impacts a fracking well will have on local wildlife and other environmental concerns, Green said…

Green was part of a panel of experts who spoke on the issue of fracking, which is becoming more popular with energy companies as they try to nudge oil and gas out of shale rock deep underground…

Debbie Baldwin, environmental manager with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, told residents that oil and gas operations in Colorado are heavily regulated and that it’s highly unlikely fracking will contaminate groundwater. Jim Jones, general manager of the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District, said fracking operations in the east part of Commerce City likely won’t affect potable water on the west side of the city.

Meanwhile, residents packed an Erie town hall meeting about hydraulic fracturing recently. Here’s a report from John Aguilar writing for the Boulder Daily Camera. From the article:

Scientists and regulators from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Encana Corp. and the Sierra Club took to the podium in front of a Town Hall board room packed to standing and spilling over into a side room.

Several town trustees mentioned the possibility of imposing a 120-day moratorium on new drilling applications so the town could further study the issue, but no action was taken by the end of the night. Instead the board said it would direct town staff to deal with future drilling applications on a well by well basis and ask for specific restrictions, such as larger setbacks or water and air monitoring, when necessary…

At the heart of Tuesday’s meeting was a proposal from Encana to drill eight wells and use hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — to extract gas at a site near Red Hawk Elementary and Erie Elementary…

[Angie] Nordstrum and other opponents of fracking — the practice of pumping fluid underground at high pressure to crack rock and release oil and natural gas — argue that the chemicals used and the pollutants emitted during the process are causing serious medical issues, such as asthma and gastrointestinal distress. She said an entire street of residents in her neighborhood have reported feeling ill, and the effects are particularly pronounced in children. Erie, she said, should demand that fracking chemicals, some of which have been cited as carcinogenic, be proven safe in third-party scientific studies before any more drilling is allowed. “This is a heinous science experiment unfolding outside our students’ classroom windows,” she said. “We don’t want our children to be the canaries in the natural gas mine.”[…]

Town Attorney Mark Shapiro explained that Erie’s hands are essentially tied with regard to regulating oil and gas drilling as the industry is under state jurisdiction. Municipal rule-making, he said, is limited to enforcing land use issues, like noise controls, lighting mitigation and operational appearance.

But April Beach, who counts herself a part of Erie Rising, said the town can pursue a ban on drilling, as has happened in other municipalities across the country. She said her group would remain active in the fight against drilling and fracking.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

2 thoughts on “Commerce City: Ban on hydraulic fracturing not in the cards

  1. I did not say that there is little a city can do to regulate the chemicals used in fracking. I explained that it would be difficult because of a Colorado Supreme Court case which prohibited Summit County from banning cyanide in mining. I explained, however, that the oil and gas statute is different from the mining statute. There is no law on this point.

    We know from the Colorado Supreme Court that local governments cannot ban oil and gas development, and courts probably would invalidate local regulations that banned all fracking because that would likely be seen as tantamount to a ban on development. However, there is no law on this point.

    An approach to consider is requiring the use of green chemicals for fracking unless an oil and gas operator could demonstrate that it would be impossible to do so.

    Barbara Green

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