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Fracking Voted Out in Three Colorado Communities

TAKE ACTION, COLORADO! This week, the citizens of Longmont, Boulder, Fort Collins, Lafayette and Broomfield told the Governor to stand up to the oil & gas industry and protect our communities. Now, as state health officials are drafting new rules to regulate oil & gas emissions state-wide, you can join the call for stronger clean air rules.

Send a message to Governor Hickenlooper and tell him oil & gas emission rules should clamp down on leaks and keep smog-forming chemicals and methane—a powerful global warming pollutant—out of our air.

Residents of large and small communities across the northern Front Range area of Colorado voted Tuesday to halt fracking in their backyards.

These defeats for the oil and gas industry came after a campaign in which the industry outspent supporters of the measures by a 30–1 margin.

Two cities, Boulder and Fort Collins, passed 5-year moratoriums while another, Lafayette, adopted an outright ban on fracking. As of early today, the vote on a third moratorium in Broomfield was too close to call. The votes in these four communities follow similar efforts last year in Longmont, which passed a ban on fracking as well as tough new regulations on drilling.

Although oil and gas development has long been present in northeastern Colorado, the intensive fracking and directional drilling techniques widely used in the last decade have led the industry to spread into new areas and encroach on residential neighborhoods and open space. Not surprisingly, residents have opposed the industrialization of their communities and the resulting harm to their air, water and quality of life from smog, truck traffic and routine chemical spills.

Faced with an unapologetically pro-industry governor and state agencies that have failed to adopt adequate protections, these communities have sent a strong message.

The ballot initiatives represent a direct response to the dismissive approach taken by Gov. Hickenlooper and industry to the legitimate concerns of communities. Right before the election, for example, the governor was quoted as saying that “there’s a lot of misinformation floating around about the industry” and the people of Colorado just need the “real facts.”

The people of Colorado know the facts: that the oil and gas industry is a major source of unhealthy smog on the Front Range and that, so far for 2013, there has been an average of one oil and gas industry-related spill a day in this state. Coloradans also understand that the full extent of the public health and environmental impacts from these industrial operations is still unknown. They don’t want their communities to serve as industry’s great experiment.

The role of our government should be to ensure that the profit-driven oil and gas industry operates in a fashion that serves our public interest. Instead, Gov. Hickenlooper has allowed industry to control the agenda and set the ceiling for public health and environmental protection. His administration even sued to overturn Longmont’s rules, asserting that its residents must rely on the state to protect their health and neighborhoods.

Tuesday’s fracking votes say loud and clear what many of the citizens of Colorado think of the state’s work to date. Now the governor has an important opportunity to demonstrate that he gets it and that he has heard what the citizens of Longmont, Boulder, Fort Collins, Lafayette and Broomfield are saying. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is currently considering rules to control the air quality impacts of oil and gas operations.

Unfortunately, initial drafts do not go nearly far enough to clamp down on leaks and keep smog-forming chemicals and methane—a powerful global warming pollutant—out of our air. The governor must take this opportunity to enact strong rules that protect our children and communities rather than bowing to the interests and divisive politics of industry yet again.

It is time for the governor and the state agencies he oversees to start listening to all Coloradans—not just those connected to the oil and gas industry.

About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.