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Longmont to Vote on Ban on Drilling in Residential Areas

Longmont resident Judith Blackburn is opposed to drilling within the city's boundaries.
Photo by Kirk Siegler
Longmont resident Judith Blackburn is opposed to drilling within the city's boundaries.

Longmont's city council is expected to approve a slate of oil and gas regulations tonight that seek to keep drilling out of residential neighborhoods. 

At the crux of Longmont’s proposed 81 page ordinance is a new rule that would ban oil and gas drilling from occurring within neighborhoods that are zoned residential.  Another measure would waive most red-tape and public hearings for new drilling applications if oil and gas companies agree to a 750-foot buffer between rigs and structures like homes and schools.

"I’m not coming from a sky is falling, extreme left, environmentalist prospective, I’m coming from the perspective of, I don’t want to endure six to eight weeks of drilling all hours of the night as I’m trying to sleep and earn a living," said councilman Brian Bagley.

As a member of the Governor’s recent oil and gas task force, Bagley has quickly emerged as one of the most vocal supporters of local control on drilling.

And while the state has long been the chief regulator of oil and gas, Bagley says communities like his have every right to regulate industrial activity through local land use codes. 

"We’re not banning oil and gas," the Republican said. "Greeley tried to do it in the early 90s, they lost, Frederick tried to establish set-backs, they lost, we’re simply saying drill, just don’t do it in residential zones." 

Longmont is just the latest Front Range city to express discomfort with the drilling boom spreading across northeast Colorado, and the council’s vote tonight follows pressure from local residents like Judith Blackburn, a retired college professor.

"We don’t think fracking has any place in an urban setting," she said.

This week Blackburn and a few other activists stood on a street corner downtown waving signs at passing drivers.  They want the city to pass an outright ban on fracking; something that’s unlikely to happen.

After all, state officials haven’t hidden their disdain for local regulations that they say could conflict with Colorado law.  Even Longmont’s current proposed ordinance limiting drilling could be headed to the courts if it passes, according to some local officials. 

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.
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