The ball is in council’s court

Editor’s Note: The following address was given before Longmont City Council on March 14, 2012.

I have a new suggestion tonight relative to how we use the moratorium currently in place to delay applications on hydraulic fracturing within Longmont City Limits.  So far we have been talking about state regulation and the city’s limited authority to challenge it.  The question now becomes, have you heard enough and seen enough in the past few months to be just the slightest bit worried about the impacts of fracking to question its appropriateness in this place, our city?  Your answer to this question determines next steps.

I recently sent an open letter to each of you describing the difference between background research on fracking done by county staff at the direction of the commissioners and research done by city staff at your direction.  The difference was that county staff talked about the impacts of fracking on citizens: health risks, hidden infrastructure costs, property values, etc.—all things that elected officials are responsible for, whereas city staff has so far merely presented a legalistic framework for how to indemnify themselves and you in the face of state preemptions.  Well, it’s a good thing we have a little more time under the moratorium to research our alternatives further.

If—and I give the word emphasis—if you would like to prevent urban fracking if you thought you could, you might re-frame it as a rights issue rather than a regulation issue.  You could re-direct city staff to research the U.S. Constitution, the Colorado Constitution, and our status as a home rule city to challenge preemption at its core.  One course of action open to you while we’ve got a moratorium would be for you to revisit our city charter.  You could ask staff what it would take to initiate an amendment to the city charter banning fracking within city limits.  Or you could decide to put this momentous decision to the voters.  Many of us would help you with such a campaign. However, if you’re fine with big oil’s PR campaign, commissions, and now a task force about how safe and green and inevitable directional hydraulic fracturing is, then you probably won’t welcome this suggestion.  But there it is.  For now the ball is in your court.

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  1 comment for “The ball is in council’s court

  1. Gregory Iwan
    March 15, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    This is all good. But amending the charter takes time. As is done “back East,” perhaps some er, regulatory approaches can make some difference. For example, such things as requiring bridge permits for traversing with large trucks such as are used in strat rig hauling, seismic surveys, water haul, etc., can slow things down in a few cases. Unfortunately, this only works where the road in question is a city road, and the bridge is not owned by, say, a railroad. Often there is another way in, perhaps onver a county or state road. But permitting everything and anything is not at all popular with the “squeezers,” so maybe by enacting emergency local legislation aimed that way the industry might feel the area is too much trouble and say “to Hell with it.”

    As things stand today, I’d estimate we still have a 4-3 Council here. There is this “idea” that if we drill, drill, drill, hydrocarbons will become cheaper. Rationally, no drilling or production (often separated!) occurs until and unless the prices are or are headed for the stratosphere. Until most of the American public gets THAT through its head, we aren’t even singing to the organist here.

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