In response to new laws and regulations addressing shale development, local governments in several key states increasingly are taking action to address local impacts of hydraulic fracturing — irrespective of whether the state agrees with their approach. The Robinson Township case in Pennsylvania, about which we have written several times recently, is a prime example. As we recently covered, activist groups in Ohio are attempting to cultivate local government action opposing shale development. And recent developments in Colorado have also made it a state with widely divergent local approaches to shale development.
In last Tuesday’s election, close to 60% of voters in the Colorado city of Longmont approved a ballot initiative (Question 300) amending the city’s charter to ban hydraulic fracturing within city limits. The initiative, started by a citizen group called “Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont”, also ban open-pit storage and disposal of wastes from hydraulic fracturing operations — including flowback and produced wastewater (brine).
This issue has a tortured history in Longmont. Originally, the city council imposed a moratorium on new drilling permits within city limits, both in response to citizen concerns and to allow time for the city to update its local regulations. Once the city had developed and passed new rules governing local oil & gas operations, it lifted the moratorium. But then the state of Colorado sued the city in July of this year, contending that state Oil & Gas Conservation Commission regulations preempted the new Longmont rules. (Note the parallels to the Robinson Township litigation.) And before the election, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper warned that the state likely would file another suit against the city if Question 300 passed.
Question 300’s passage may embolden citizen groups to pursue similar ballot initiatives. Before the election, a recently-formed citizen group in Colorado Springs (backed by the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund) began a petition campaign to get a similar measure on the ballot in that city in 2013. A sampling of local media coverage of Longmont’s ballot initiative and its history of shale regulation can be found here, here, here, and here.
Not all activity at the local level has been anti-shale, though. Tomorrow we will provide an example of a different Colorado town that recently took a collaborative approach to hydraulic fracturing regulation that is being hailed by the state as a template for local regulation.