Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking)

Leigh Paterson

Across the county, in areas like north Texas, western Pennsylvania and in the suburbs and towns north of Denver, communities are becoming industrialized, dotted with oil and gas wells, laced with pipelines. People in these communities are living with the potential risks that comes from living close to oil and gas development.

Bill Badzo / Flickr

With just a few days left in Boulder County’s oil and gas moratorium, county commissioners laid out their plan to gain more local control of the multibillion-dollar industry.

Commissioners urged the public to protest at the state Capitol and vote in the upcoming gubernatorial election for a candidate who would be more receptive to statewide implementation of more restrictive regulations.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

Boulder County will resume issuing oil and gas drilling permits May 1, 2017, after a series of moratoriums halted the practice in 2012. Denver- based energy company Crestone Peak Resources has filed the first application in five years to drill within unincorporated parts of the county. The company is the fifth largest producer in the Denver-Julesburg basin – an oil and gas-rich formation situated under much of Northeastern Colorado and portions of Boulder County.

KUNC File Photo

With its moratorium on new drilling permits set to expire in a few weeks, Boulder County commissioners unanimously passed new oil and gas regulations. The county calls them the “most restrictive” of such regulations in Colorado. They are about 60 pages and require a much higher environmental and public health standard than the state. Boulder County began the new rule process following two state Supreme Court decisions in 2016 that invalidated hydraulic fracturing bans or long term moratoriums.

Bente Birkeland / Capitol Coverage

“If you put an entire community in danger, that shouldn’t be a felony?” asked  Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling during a packed committee hearing on Feb. 16.

The topic of debate was Senate Bill 35, a measure that would increase the penalty for tampering with oil and equipment and attempting to interrupt operations.  Since it was first introduced, SB 35 has generated a lot of public interest. It has consistently been one of the “most accessed bills” on the state’s legislative website.

Why Cities Can't Ban Oil And Gas Drilling In Colorado

Feb 24, 2017
Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

The conflict over oil and gas drilling -- as well as hydraulic fracturing -- has led to multiple protests, votes and court decisions in Colorado. Most recently, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman began proceedings to sue Boulder County over its lack of new drilling permits.

But the history of oil and gas development and regulation in Colorado is a long one. Here’s how we got to where we are today.

Bente Birkland / KUNC

Updated at 1:30 p.m. MT on Jan. 27

Boulder County could wind up in court over its continued moratorium on oil and gas development.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman sent a letter to Boulder County Commissioners Jan. 26 threatening legal action if they don’t begin permitting new oil and gas development including fracking, on unincorporated areas within the county by Feb. 10.

Jim Hill / KUNC

2016 hasn’t been a good year for people who want to restrict oil and gas development in Colorado. Now the failure to collect enough valid signatures to put two anti-fracking initiatives on the November ballot means no foreseeable resolution to an issue that has divided the state.

"This is not the end of this fight," said Pete Maysmith, the executive director of the environmental group Conservation Colorado. His group endorsed initiative 75, which would have allowed local governments to enact their own laws to prevent or mitigate local impacts from oil and gas development.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

There are a lot of ways to gauge momentum in politics. If you look at the money both sides of Colorado's hydraulic fracturing debate have raised so far, it seems to be a case of David versus Goliath.

The state's oil and gas industry is preparing for a potential battle at the ballot box against a much less well-funded foe. Supporters of four different ballot measures that seek to restrict drilling are gathering signatures and have raised just tens of thousands of dollars, compared to the more than $6 million that one opposition group has amassed for the fight.

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

Colorado Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled that state laws protecting the oil and gas industry overrule a hydraulic fracturing ban in Longmont [.pdf] and a five-year moratorium in Fort Collins [.pdf], calling both of the voter-approved moves "invalid and unenforceable." While the industry sees the decision as a big win, opponents view the ballot box as the likely outlet now for gaining more local control.

Fort Collins and Longmont's oil and gas control measures were the headline examples, but they weren't alone in the state. What happens now with similar efforts in Boulder County and Broomfield?

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