P eople around the state are being harmed by current methods of oil and gas drilling (known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking) and are fighting back.
This process contaminates surface and ground water, releases carcinogenic chemicals into the air, causes earthquakes and makes people sick. People in Erie, Longmont, Lafayette, Boulder and unincorporated Boulder County are pressuring their local officials to take stronger action to protect their health and environment from this hazardous process.
In many cases, community residents are asking for a complete ban on fracking, because the evidence has convinced them that it can never be done safely. Furthermore, the state regulatory agency -- the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) -- has a long history of protecting the industry, rather than the public.
One of the ways that the state government is keeping city and county governments in line is by claiming only the state can regulate oil and gas, that this right pre-empts protective action by local governments -- and that the state will sue if local governments take any protective action, as did the city of Longmont.
The Longmont City Council, pressured by its residents, passed some tepid regulations, including voluntary standards on noise and lighting and voluntary setbacks from schools, parks and homes. In response, the state sued.
On Tuesday night, the Boulder City Council passed a resolution which backed Longmont's regulations and stated that : "...Colorado municipalities should be allowed to retain the fundamental power of local control over land use decisions related to protecting the health, safety and welfare of their community."
We cannot allow our local elected officials to be intimidated by threats of lawsuits from the state, and must pressure them to take all the all necessary actions to protect us, including banning fracking.
If enough localities claim the right to protect their citizens, given the refusal of the state to do so, the state legislature and executive branch will face a crisis and be forced to act in the public interest, rather than on behalf of the oil and gas industry.
At some point the state loses all legitimacy if it totally ignores the will of the people.
Contact your city (firstname.lastname@example.org) and county commissioners (email@example.com) and tell them "don't be intimidated" by the state's threats to sue. Ask them to ban fracking and to take other protective actions.
You can find out much more information on this topic and what to do at bococcr.org.
Carolyn Bninski is on the staff of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.