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Lafayette Fracking Opposition Reacts To COGA Lawsuit

KUNC File Photo

The Colorado Oil & Gas Association took legal action Tuesday against voter approved measures that place restrictions on hydraulic fracturing in Lafayette and Fort Collins. While Lafayette anti-fracking group East Boulder County United was surprised by the move, it says it wasn’t unexpected.

In a statement released by COGA, President Tisha Schuller called groups like East Boulder County United ‘extremists’ who used ‘fear and misinformation to lure cities into passing bans’ on Nov. 5. Cliff Willmeng, a representative for East Boulder County United says those are the words of an industry that’s seeing a slip in credibility.

“They have lost every single democratic election around their industry and how it affects communities,” Willmeng said. “Naturally they are going to resort to the least common denominator which is hoping corporate lawyers can make this determination for the entire Front Range of Colorado.”

The group has been preparing for a lawsuit even before the 2013 election was finalized. Before the election, Merrily Mazza spokesperson for the group and a newly elected Lafayette city councilor said it was always in the back of her mind.

“Any city who makes a move in this direction is going to be sued,” Mazza said. “So you have to go into this with the idea that this is going to happen. You have to publicize it to people so they know what the threat is, because that’s basically where they're coming at us.”

Credit Kirk Siegler / KUNC File Photo
KUNC File Photo
An oil rig in Firestone, Colorado.

Cliff Willmeng says East Boulder County United will begin to form a defense against the lawsuit in the coming days.

“[What] we have to do is prepare a defense here that really outlines the principle here of whether or not we have a democracy left in Colorado at all,” Willmeng said. “And so the next steps we’re going to be taking will be in both legal defense and all sorts of public and community organizing.”

Boulder and Fort Collins also approved measures that place an extended moratorium or ban fracking outright. In Broomfield, a Tuesday night recount showed the city's fracking moratorium was approved by a razor thin margin.

Despite the success fracking foes found on election night, a recent poll from Quinnipiac University found that voters in Colorado supported the practice 51 – 34 percent, something COGA President Tisha Schuler noted in a written statement.

“Recent polls show that Coloradans overwhelmingly support oil and gas development, including hydraulic fracturing” Schuller said. “Oil and gas development is critical to our state's economy, energy future, and business environment. We will continue mobilizing and educating our neighbors on the safety and importance of Colorado oil and gas development.”

Willmeng says his group sees the voter approved ban as democracy in action.

“This is much bigger then hydraulic fracturing,” Willmeng said. “We consider this a civil rights issue.”

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