5:00am

Wed November 20, 2013
Oil and Gas

As Broomfield Fracking Recount Looms, Industry Charts Next Steps

The city and county of Broomfield will launch a closely watched vote recount on Question 300 — which would impose a 5-year fracking moratorium. The recount is expected to take two to three days.

Grace Hood reports for Morning Edition.

Update 10:30 a.m. - via Grace Hood on Twitter:

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Results on 300 have been razor thin and have see-sawed from an apparent win for the oil and gas industry to a preliminary victory for the proponent group Our Broomfield.

“There are other counties and other cities along the Front Range that have been planning for this in the past year,” said Our Broomfield’s Laura Fronckiewicz. “We really just threw this together in a couple of months out of total concern about what’s going on, we couldn’t wait.”

While supporters of the moratorium have a lot at stake, so do oil and gas operators like Sovereign Operating Company, which has plans to drill 31 new wells in Broomfield.

“It would shut down future operations for new drilling, which is where all of our investment and activity primarily are focused,” said Sovereign Chairman and CEO Thomas Metzger.

Metzger says losing access to the wells could translate into a loss of tens of millions of dollars. He won’t say whether he’ll pursue legal action if the moratorium passes. Earlier this year Metzger spent months negotiating an operating agreement with the city and county which he says exceeds state and federal rules.

“Certainly we are easily a year-and-a-half to two years off our schedule, and its economic impact is very substantive,” he said.

Small Companies Hardest Hit

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association says it’s smaller oil and gas producers and mineral rights holders in towns that have passed measures that will likely be most affected.

“Banning for some of these smaller companies can be really significant impact,” said COGA CEO Tisha Schuller.

Schuller notes that the majority of producing wells in Colorado — 99.9 percent — are not in towns that saw a ban or a moratorium.

"When you have these types of initiatives being bandied about... it doesn't create a good business climate."

Whether COGA pursues legal action against towns remains to be seen. COGA is already engaged in a pending lawsuit over a 2012 voter-approved ban in Longmont. What is clear according to Schuller is that COGA will continue outreach efforts.

“We have more work to do, and Colorado’s oil and gas industry is committed to engaging in this conversation for the long run,” she said.

Some environmental groups have said they’re considering putting a statewide ban or moratorium on the 2014 election ballot.

That’s not exactly welcome news at the Encana Oil & Gas offices in Denver. In 2013, the company revamped its strategy and workforce to focus more on Colorado.

“A decision has been made to have a presence here in Denver and in Colorado, and when you have these types of initiatives being bandied about — again, it doesn’t create a good business climate,” said Doug Hock, Encana’s director of community relations.

Hock says Encana is still moving forward with a strategy that would spend as much as $250 million in the Denver Julesburg Basin.

An Ongoing Media Campaign

There’s a lot at stake for other companies like Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, the second largest operator in the DJ Basin.

Anadarko’s Robin Olsen says the company will continue an informational campaign through the 501(c)6 organization Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development.

“It’s a multiyear effort that we plan to see go on for some time to really help open up the dialogue acknowledge and address people’s specific concerns, share information around the topics that are happening in the industry,” Olsen said.

In the meantime, the group Americans Against Fracking has launched a web ad urging Gov. John Hickenlooper to ban hydraulic fracturing.

As more ad campaigns continue to be launched, one thing is clear: Coloradans are not done hearing about the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing.

Editor's Note: With the update that the recount has been delayed, we've updated the first paragraph of the story and headline to remove references to 'today,' 'starts' and 'Nov. 20.'

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