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Longmont Voters Ban Fracking; State Opposes Ban

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Fracking posterLongmont, Colorado, is the first city in the state to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking), as residents voted 59 to 41% to approve Ballot Measure 300 on Tuesday, Sara Jerving writes for The Center for Media and Democracy’s PRWatch. Residents also voted to ban storage of toxin-laden wastewater within the city limits, she reports in her article, “Over Half a Million Dollars Couldn’t Stop Colorado Community From Banning Fracking.”

Jerving writes the following about the controversial technology:

Fracking involves pumping large quantities of fresh water, coupled with chemicals and sand, into shale formations to crack the rock and extract the fossil fuels. Studies have revealed that fracking fluids contain a host of toxic substances, including known carcinogens and volatile organic compounds. Fracking has the documented potential to contaminate drinking water sources, foul air and land, as well as spoiling millions of gallons of fresh water as part of the drilling process that must then be disposed.

Sharon Guynup writes for Living Green Magazine that earlier this year, a Colorado School of Public Health study found high levels of airborne petroleum hydrocarbons near drilling sites in Garfield County, which could cause acute or chronic respiratory and neurological problems.
The city of Longmont voted last July to bar new oil and gas permits in residential neighborhoods, but Governor John Hickenlooper said that letting the ordinance stand would “stir-up a hornet’s nest,” in which other towns in the state would pass their own drilling rules, Guynup writes. The state proceeded with a lawsuit, Scott Rochat writes for the Longmont Times-Call in an article appearing on Daily Camera, and activists organized as Our Longmont.

The controversy began in late 2011, when TOP Operating announced its plans to drill wells near Union Reservoir and Sandstone Ranch, Rochat writes. He reports that the oil and gas industry fought the July ban, giving $507,500 to Main Street Longmont, which opposed the ban. Main Street Longmont and its predecessor, Longmont Taxpayers for Common Sense, had spent $413,334 by the end of October to campaign against Ballot Question 300, Rochat writes.

He says that “During a September visit to Longmont, Gov. John Hickenlooper said that passage of Ballot Question 300 likely would bring a second lawsuit from the state.” The state’s Supreme Court has forbidden cities from banning oil and gas drilling outright, but has decided what Rochat calls “lesser measures” on a case-by-case basis.

Dallas Heltzell writes for the Boulder County Business Report that the voters’ approval of the Ballot Measure “could set off legal battles pitting mineral-rights interests against local governments’ right of self-determination.” Helzell continues: “Opponents of the ballot issue contended that the measure could pre-empt negotiations with the state and lead to another lawsuit. Supporters countered that no ‘taking’ would be involved because drilling would still be permitted and the only restriction would be on the method used.”

More than 80 county commissioners, mayors, and city council members across the state have asked the governor to withdraw his lawsuit against Longmont’s fracking ban, Guynup writes.

She adds:

Not one state, nor the federal government, currently requires drillers to disclose ‘proprietary’ drilling formulas, which contain chemicals known to cause cancer or disrupt hormones that regulate basic body functions, including benzene, toluene, diesel, and formaldehyde, to name a few. Oil and gas companies pumped 780 million gallons of fracturing products underground from 2005-2009 containing about 750 different chemicals.

Of the 353 chemicals identified by researchers in a recent study, about half could harm the nervous system, the cardiovascular system and blood, 40 percent could disrupt immune function, about a third could affect endocrine organs, and a quarter could cause cancer.

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