DENVER—Voters on Election Day said they wanted to ban hydraulic fracturing in the cities of Boulder, Fort Collins and Lafayette, which shouldn’t be a problem.
That’s because there’s virtually no hydraulic fracturing taking place in Boulder, Fort Collins or Lafayette.
Even as anti-fracking groups celebrated their wins in passing three out of the four five-year fracking moratoriums on Tuesday’s ballot, others pointed out that the vote was akin to banning downhill skiing in Aurora or surfing in Denver.
“Boulder and Lafayette were nothing more than symbolic votes,” said Colorado Oil and Gas Association president Tisha Schuller. “Lafayette’s last new well permit was in the early 1990’s and Boulder’s last oil and gas well was plugged in 1999.”
Ted Brown, senior vice-president of Noble Energy, one of the state’s largest oil-and-gas producers, said the company has no operations in any of the four cities with fracking bans on Tuesday’s ballot.
“These communities are all west of Interstate 25,” said Brown. “Everything that Noble has as far as development acreage and plans over the next several years all occur east of I-25 in Weld County. So all of these communities are outside of Weld County, they’re bedroom communities along the foothills that have traditionally had very little development.”
Before the election, the Coloradoan newspaper urged a “no” vote on Question 2A, the five-year fracking moratorium on the ballot in Fort Collins, arguing that the city was being used as a “pawn” to make a political point.
“Nearly 90 percent of Fort Collins is already off limits to any sort of oil and gas drilling — fracking or otherwise. And the remaining 10 percent doesn’t have all that much oil underneath it in the first place,” said the Oct. 26 editorial.
Larimer County Assessor Steve Miller said Wednesday the passage of Question 2A in Fort Collins would have no impact on the tax base. Fort Collins has an estimated half-dozen wells within the city limits.
“From a taxable basis, the moratorium has no effect,” Miller told the Coloradoan. “Everybody got to express their opinions on fracking but, in my opinion, it wasn’t an important issue.”
The fracking bans may have no effect on actual fracking, but they did help Colorado environmentalists log a public-relations victory in the ongoing battle over oil-and-gas development.
“These wins set a precedent that demonstrate to other communities, under similar threat of fracking, that citizens’ rights can prevail over corporate interests and big money,” said Frack-Free Colorado in a post-election fundraising appeal. “We’ve, also, sent a message to Governor [John] Hickenlooper, that our voices will not be ignored!”
Hickenlooper stymied the Democrats’ push for tougher drilling regulations in the previous legislative session. Armed with the latest election results, however, anti-fracking groups are expected to renew their attack on the oil-and-gas industry in the 2014 legislative session.
A fourth fracking moratorium in Broomfield was defeated, but by just 13 votes out of 20,519 cast. The result is likely to trigger an automatic recount after overseas and military ballots are received and the official results are certified Nov. 14, said Broomfield elections administrator Michael Susek.
With nothing to lose, the towns targeted for fracking bans were easy pickings, especially given the liberal bent of voters in Boulder and Lafayette, said the Denver Post in a Wednesday editorial, “Regrettable votes on Colorado fracking bans.”
“Given the politics of Boulder and Lafayette, it would have taken a near miracle for proponents to ban fracking, especially since neither community had anything to lose except possible litigation costs in defending the measures,” said the editorial.