The Colorado Democrat said at an event in Montrose Tuesday that fracking should be legal in some areas of the state, but illegal in other parts
“There are places where we should and could use hydraulic fracturing to produce natural gas, but there are other places that we should not. And for me, the areas that are questionable would be wildlife refuges, parks, subdivisions, places like the North Fork where there are other values that are equally important,” Udall said.
Ballot initiatives would be a “clumsy tool” to regulate fracking, but the industry should take additional steps to make it safer, Udall told Laura Palmisano during an interview with KVNF.
“My stance on hydraulic fracturing is that it can be done safely. It must be done safely. One well contaminated or one person sick is too many,” Udall told Palmisano.
“The industry has done a lot up to this point, but it could do even more. We can real-time test air quality. We can baseline test water quality. We can be thoughtful about when and where we hydraulically fracture,” Udall said.
Udall has called for a balanced approach to fracking in which the oil and gas industry and environmentalists arrive at a “sweet spot” satisfying both interests, but has not specified where fracking should be allowed or prohibited.
Environmentalists along with Democratic Rep. Jared Polis are backing the anti-fracking ballot measures, while business groups and several high profile Democrats including former Interior Secretary and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar oppose the initiatives.
Udall has sought to position himself between the two camps, but his latest comments drew criticism from one of the groups leading the fracking ban initiative as well as his Republican opponent for the Senate seat.
Cliff Willmeng of Colorado Community Rights Network, who played a key role in the approval of Lafayette’s ban last November, posted a response on their Facebook page to the KVNF interview.
“We’re not sure which quotes in your recent interview are most disconcerting? Exactly which neighborhoods should be fracked Mark??? … Are the communities in the Thompson Divide and the people that live in them of more value than the good people of Weld and Adams County?” the post said.
Lafayette, Longmont, and Bromfield have approved bans on fracking, while Boulder and Fort Collins voters approved five-year moratoriums. A June 24 ballot initiative to approve a two-year moratorium in Loveland failed.
Getting an initiative on the ballot requires more than 86,000 signatures from registered voters by early August for the Nov. 4 election. At least three different anti-fracking organizations are seeking to get an initiative on the state ballot.
Alex Siciliano, a spokesman for Republican Rep. Cory Gardner who is campaigning for the Senate seat, criticized Udall’s position as damaging to the economy.
“It’s time that Sen. Udall takes a stance on the real threat of a fracking ban: nearly 100,000 lost jobs, $12 billion in lost GDP, and at least $1 billion in lost revenues. Colorado deserves better than a senator who speaks in vague platitudes and ignores issues that have the potential to negatively impact Coloradans,” Siciliano said in a statement.
Siciliano was referring to a study that the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado conducted on the effects of fracking in Colorado. Released in March, the study found that 93,000 jobs would be lost if all communities in the state banned fracking; of those losses, 68,000 would occur in the first five years.