Colorado Fracking Fight Looms

Colorado Fracking Fight Looms

Source: Dow Jones News Service, November 7, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

(FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL 11/7/13)

Energy companies in Colorado are girding for a statewide battle over fracking next year after voters in three communities passed bans on hydraulic fracturing and a fourth town voted to continue to allow the practice by just a handful of votes.

Despite heavy spending by the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, Boulder and Fort Collins passed five-year moratoriums Tuesday, and voters in Lafayette strongly favored an outright ban. All three are in north-central Colorado near the Niobrara Shale oil field, where production has been rising rapidly.

In nearby Broomfield, which has experienced more drilling than the other towns, voters defeated a moratorium by 13 votes out of 20,519. The tally remains unofficial and, if certified, would trigger a recount.

The vote in Broomfield, a suburban community north of Denver, was watched most closely because its residents have the most experience with the pros and cons of drilling, and because its politics mirror Colorado’s.

The antifracking effort, spearheaded by Frack Free Colorado, was supported by Washington, D.C., nonprofits Clean Water Action and Food & Water Watch. Patagonia Inc. also gave a grant to Frack Free Colorado. Petitions to get the issue on ballots were gathered by local organizers, some of them with affiliations to these environmental groups.

Fracking pumps water, sand and chemicals into a well to break open dense shale rock in order to extract oil and gas. It has spread quickly in recent years, leading to an energy boom that has reversed years of declining national oil production.

But it has also prompted a significant backlash by people who say the process can lead to water contamination, unhealthy air emissions and earthquakes.

Opponents of fracking said they were considering a push for a statewide referendum in Colorado next year. “This is totally a galvanizing moment for our movement,” said Russell Mendell, an organizer for Frack Free Colorado. “Statewide and even across the country, people are thinking we can defeat Goliath and win these local elections.”

Ted Brown, a Noble Energy Inc. senior vice president, called the votes a wake-up call on fracking. “We have a lot more work to do informing the general public,” he said. “Quite frankly, that void has been filled for quite some time without a response from the oil and gas industry.”

Noble and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. recently formed a nonprofit called Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development to attempt to convince the public that fracking won’t destroy the environment. Noble expects to spend $2 billion this year to drill 300 wells in the Niobrara.

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