Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones is set to debate Gov. John Hickenlooper on natural gas hydraulic fracturing -- or fracking -- on April 1 in Denver.
The goal of the 45-minute session is to provide a state-versus-local perspective on the effects of fracking, including public health concerns, the environmental impacts and local economic considerations.
"Oil and gas is a really, really important issue to the residents of Boulder County," Jones said Monday. "It's important that their concerns be made known to the state and to the governor directly. It's critical that he understand that Coloradans don't want to sacrifice air and water quality and public health to produce energy."
Colorado residents chafing at the rapidly expanding oil and gas operations along the Front Range are pressuring their local governments for protection from industrial light, noise, vibration and pollution within city limits.
But state officials insist they alone have the right to regulate how and where the industry does its drilling. State attorneys are fighting local governments that try to impose their own rules.
Eric Brown, a spokesman for the governor, said Hickenlooper and Jones "have a long friendship that predates either serving in public office."
"He agreed to participate in the forum because the issues are important to discuss in a way that is respectful and based on facts," Brown said.
Boulder County commissioners in December voted in favor of rules that will allow fracking on unincorporated county lands, while setting out "legally defensible" regulations.
Jones said that given Colorado is a local-control state, local governments need more authority over oil and gas operations.
"It's important for the governor to understand the critical role that local governments play in protecting public and environmental health in their communities," she said. "We would like the state not to sue us when we take action to protect our residents. We're looking for a better partnership with the state than the current one."
Longmont was the first city to be sued by the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission after the City Council passed tough rules including mandatory 750-foot buffers between wells and homes, and full disclosure by companies of chemicals they inject during the process of fracking.
Longmont residents voted to enact a fracking ban in November, drawing a second lawsuit -- this one from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry group. The outright ban on in-town drilling by Fort Collins' City Council earlier this month also was immediately called illegal by Hickenlooper.
The April 1 debate will be mediated by University of Denver law professor K.K. DuVivier and is part of the Natural Resources and Environmental Law Society's sponsored Earth Week events.
The session will include seven questions, with each participant allowed two-and-half minutes per question. There will be seating for 135 people, plus an overflow room for another 80 people and live-streaming for those who can't attend.
The debate will run from noon to 12:45 p.m., with a reception following the debate from 1 to 2 p.m. Doors open at 11 a.m. and close at 11:45 to begin the debate.
Both the debate and reception will be held at DU's Sturm College of Law, Room 165, 2255 E. Evans Ave., Denver.
The Denver Post contributed to the report.