Environmental groups join legal fray over Fort Collins fracking ban

Oil and gas drilling near schools and homes in Firestone, Colorado. Photo courtesy Shane Davis, Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Oil and gas drilling near schools and homes in Firestone, Colorado. Photo courtesy Shane Davis, Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Grassroots activists stand up to industry ‘bullying’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Fort Collins residents who passed a temporary five-year fracking ban last year will get some help in their legal showdown with the fossil fuel industry.

A trio of from from environmental groups — Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, the Sierra Club and Earthworks filed a motion to intervene in the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s lawsuit against the City of Fort Collins.

The Association is trying to overturn a five year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.”  The Fort Collins moratorium on fracking passed as Ballot Measure 2A with 56 percent of the vote in November 2013.

“It is important to us as an organization that the moratorium is upheld,” said Kelly Giddens of Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins. “The voters of Fort Collins voted for a 5 year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in order to allow time for the results of studies in progress to be published and interpreted before deciding whether or how to allow “fracking” or the storage of hazardous waste in our community,” Giddens said, describing the lawsuit as a “blatant attempt to bypass the will of the voters.”

“The industry so far has refused to come forward with any company that would actually be harmed by this limited time-out on fracking.  If some company does intend to frack in Fort Collins, we’d like to know about it,” said Kevin Lynch of the University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic, which represents the citizens’ groups. “Regardless, we think there is no good reason not to wait and see the results of ongoing health and safety studies before the City decides whether or not to allow this industrial practice into its residents’ backyards.”

The environmental groups charged that the fossil fuel industry operates with little federal or state oversight, requiring local communities to take action to protect themselves.

In the November 2013 election, three cities, including Fort Collins, passed moratoriums on fracking. Additionally, two cities have passed bans on fracking, one in 2013 in Lafayette and one in 2012 in Longmont.  The Colorado Oil and Gas Association has sued four of the five cities to reverse these limits on fracking.

“Apparently the oil and gas industry thinks there’s such a thing as too much democracy,” said Bruce Baizel, director of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. “In Fort Collins and across the country, wherever voters choose to wait-and-see on fracking, industry sues to overturn the vote.  Such bullying tactics simply confirm that the industry is losing the public debate.”

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