Boulder needs to have regulations in place -- or if not, at least a moratorium -- to prevent fracking within city limits and on city open space, Councilwoman Suzanne Jones said.
Jones raised the issue at the City Council's annual retreat after council members received a letter from a group of environmental activists and Boulder residents asking the city to take a stand against fracking. The letter included a map of existing oil and gas wells in and near the city obtained from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
"There are lots and lots of scientific reasons to be concerned about fracking and other oil and gas impacts," Jones said.
She suggested the city could use regulations developed by Longmont and Boulder County as a starting point for creating its own rules.
However, Longmont has been sued by the state both over its regulations and over a voter-approved ban on the practice. Until those cases wind their way through the courts, there will be uncertainty over which types of regulations local government can enact. The state oil and gas commission considers the regulation of fracking its purview.
A number of other council members did not see addressing fracking as a top priority. Councilman Ken Wilson said the risk seems low, and the city has a lot of controversial issues on its plate already.
"What gas developer in their right mind would come and try to put a well within the city limits of Boulder?" Wilson asked. "I just don't think there is a risk to us this year."
However, there was confusion over how much protection is provided by the county's rules and city land use codes that bar "resource extraction" within Boulder.
The Open Space and Mountain Parks department is already analyzing the location of existing oil and gas wells on open space and what protection current regulations provide.
The City Council asked the City Attorney's Office and the Community Planning and Sustainability department to research the issue and give them some sense of the risk of fracking occurring within city limits before they decide whether to pursue a moratorium.
Fracking was one of dozens of issues raised at the Boulder City Council annual retreat, which helps the council set its priorities for 2013 and allows members to raise matters of concern, both small and large.
The council's top priorities will not change from 2012, as the city continues to push forward on several major projects. The largest of those is deciding whether to pursue the creation of a municipal energy utility. Other top projects are developing a Civic Area Master Plan for central Boulder, continuing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, creating an affordable housing policy, including possibly a new affordable housing board, revitalizing University Hill and addressing homelessness.
City Council members also said they want to expand a recently adopted ban on smoking on the Pearl Street Mall to all city parks and possibly more of the downtown.
Those discussions are likely to start this summer.
Councilman George Karakehian said he's concerned that Boulder could become a destination for "drug-cations" as Amendment 64 clears the way for recreational pot shops, while Councilwoman K.C. Becker feared abundant pot shops could draw more homeless people to Boulder from areas that don't allow retail sales.
They asked for a broader look at the potential impacts of Amendment 64 beyond just creating regulations for recreational pot shops. That discussion likely will take place this spring and summer, as the shape of state regulations becomes clearer.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.