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Stopping Fracking at the Local Level?

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Thursday, March 1, 2012   

LONGMONT, Colo. - A new industry-sponsored advertisement says that the hydraulic fracturing process to get oil and gas has caused no groundwater contamination in Colorado - but critics and some cities say the ad is misleading and "fracking" needs to slow down.

The new ad features Gov. John Hickenlooper and is sponsored by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

The Poudre Canyon Group of the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action analyzed spill reports to the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. In the past five years, says Shane Davis, chairman of the Poudre Canyon group, 47 percent of fracking and other oil and gas drilling spills in a single county - Weld - contaminated ground and surface water.

"I believe it was maybe an innocent misstatement, erroneous misstatement, I'm not sure. I'm not there to judge that. But what I can say are the facts."

A Colorado Oil and Gas Association spokesperson told the Denver Post that there were no contamination incidents that affected a family's or community's drinking water. However, Davis says that in August 2009, drilling-related contaminants were found in a residential well in Weld County.

Longmont sits on the border of Boulder and Weld counties. On Tuesday night, its city council voted to extend a moratorium on new oil and gas permits for another six months in order to evaluate city regulations. National Wildlife Federation attorney Michael Saul explains.

"This is a complicated issue to look at and regulate and it gives a local government a breather to set up some regulations that can be harmonized with the state system."

Davis says the Sierra Club believes that despite state law, cities should be able to set up their own regulations for oil and gas development.

"When you look at the probable adverse environmental and human health impacts that are associated with mining that use fracking, I think it's really imperative that citizens and cities maintain their municipal powers."

However, courts have said that if there is an operational conflict between city and state law, state law prevails. Late Wednesday, Hickenlooper announced he's establishing a task force to help ease those conflicts and balance state and local concerns in oil and gas development.

The Sierra Club report is online at water.clean.home.comcast.net.


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