Tag Archive for Longmont Colorado

Hickenlooper / COGCC overreach in lawsuit

Longmont’s rules are legal and make good common sense.

The state legislative session has ended, with oil and gas drilling impacts on our communities still largely unaddressed — in no small part due to the active resistance of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration. Even more concerning, the Governor continues to actively undermine the efforts of local governments to respond to the growing citizen outcry against fracking and other industrial activities in their neighborhood
Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

For example, last year the governor sued the city of Longmont, where I was city manager for 19 years, for adopting local oil and gas rules to protect its citizens. While I appreciate Gov. Hickenlooper’s characterization of the lawsuit as “a last resort,” I want to explain why Longmont’s rules are legal and make good common sense.

Longmont didn’t take the task of adopting new oil and gas rules lightly. The City Council acted because state rules under the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) were insufficient to protect our community. The council carefully crafted an ordinance that would safeguard the health and welfare of Longmont citizens and promote industry accountability and responsibility. Working with its most active oil and gas company, the city negotiated an operator agreement that went beyond COGCC requirements. Notably, while the governor sued Longmont for its new rules, the local oil and gas operator did not.

The new regulations prevent oil and gas development within residential neighborhoods, and require drilling to be a reasonable distance from occupied structures to better protect residents from noxious fumes, chemical spills, and dangerous and noisy truck traffic. Separating industrial uses from homes, schools, and nursing homes is part of the fundamental zoning role that local governments play.

When Longmont passed its rules, COGCC regulations allowed new oil and gas wells to be as close as 350 feet from homes in high-occupancy residential areas and 150 feet from homes in rural areas. Those “setbacks” applied whether there was one well or 22 planned for a site. Longmont residents were concerned about the health of children and seniors and the livability of their neighborhoods. The City Council increased the setbacks to 750 feet from homes and allowed for comprehensive review of multiwell sites to ensure they are located appropriately with respect to traffic and adjacent land uses. In response, Gov. Hickenlooper sued Longmont, stating the ordinance was “preempted” by the state.

COGCC rules require that toxic chemicals used in fracking be disclosed to the state 60 days after the operation has been completed. Since most accidents happen when chemicals are being transported or during the fracking process, the Council opted to increase safety for residents and emergency responders by requiring that chemicals be disclosed prior to trucking them through our neighborhoods and pumping them underground. The COGCC is suing for this, too.

The COGCC is also suing Longmont for trying to prevent facilities within the city limits from being an eyesore — such as requiring that tanks be painted and well heads be screened by landscaping. Why is the state threatened by this? The city of Greeley has had a similar requirement in its land use code for years.

Hickenlooper 2The governor accuses Longmont’s use of its zoning authority as a “taking” of private property. Yet, reasonable zoning restrictions — such as those to protect public health — have never been considered a taking by the courts. That is probably why the state is not suing Longmont for a “takings” — even though that is the governor’s rationale.

Applying local zoning to oil and gas development is common. Just look to the birthplaces of the industry: Texas allows municipalities to set their own setback rules; Pennsylvania allows local governments to apply their zoning authority to oil and gas development; and Oklahoma allows its municipalities to ban oil and gas development within their borders. Yet, these states aren’t suffering from an “uneven patchwork of regulations.”

Zoning industrial land uses inside the city is within Longmont’s authority as a home rule city. From mining operations to marijuana dispensaries, barber shops to breweries, local governments have the authority and responsibility to regulate land use to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare. Oil and gas development should be no different.

The oil and gas industry is booming in Colorado. Responsible development of the industry is appropriate. However, responsible does not mean steamrolling the citizens of Longmont. Longmont’s future should be dictated by the needs of its community, not the desires of the industry or the governor. One thing we all agree with the governor on: “Our ultimate responsibility is to protect people.”

I hope the governor will rethink his approach and work with local officials to ensure Longmont remains a great place to live.

Gordon L. Pedrow is a former city manager of Longmont.

Our Longmont announces Charter Amendment Drive to Ban Fracking in Longmont

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 30, 2012

Contact:

Peter Champe, Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, 303-241-8115

Sam Schabacker, Food & Water Watch, 720-449-7505

 

Petition Drive Announced to Stop Fracking in Longmont

If Successful, Longmont Would be the First Colorado City to Ban Fracking

 

Longmont, Colo. – Today, the Longmont ballot issue committee Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont filed a notice of intent with the Longmont City Clerk to put a charter amendment on the November ballot to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within Longmont city limits.  This controversial oil and gas drilling method threatens health and safety, erodes property values, and pollutes water and air when done in close proximity to densely populated areas.

“The state and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association are bullying Longmont to take away their local control and the city council is not standing strong to protect the health, safety and welfare of Longmont residents, so this petition is our only recourse,” said Peter Champe with Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont. “People who live, work and raise their families in Longmont should have a say on whether or not they want their air, water, soil and roadways threatened by the risky process of fracking and the subsequent well production. If no action is taken, existing regulations would allow hundreds of wells to be drilled in Longmont.”

For months, Longmont Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas Regulation (LongmontROAR) has been urging the Longmont City Council to pass local regulations for oil and gas drilling that cover basic protections such as prohibiting drilling in residential areas. These regulations were developed after several months of citizen input, scientific testimony, and research by city staff.  However, in the last four weeks, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and the Colorado Attorney General have actively sought to derail these commonsense measures to protect the health and safety of Longmont residents. The Attorney General sent a letter to the City of Longmont with a veiled threat of a lawsuit should Longmont proceed with the regulations. Then, COGA conducted a push poll to manipulate public opinion and intimidate members of Longmont’s City Council.  Unfortunately, the Longmont City Council responded to this pressure last week by putting the regulations on hold.

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont was created in response to these efforts by the State of Colorado and the oil and gas industry to take away local control from Longmont citizens to protect their health, property and families. The citizens’ petition is based on the Colorado Constitution, which confers on all individuals in the state, including the citizens of Longmont, certain inalienable rights, including “the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness,” (Colo. Const. Art. II, Sec. 3). Since Longmont is a home rule city, a charter amendment can be put to a public vote with signatures from 10 percent of registered voters. Our Longmont and its allies will need to collect approximately 6,000 valid signatures from Longmont voters to qualify the measure for the Nov. 6 ballot.

If successful, Longmont would be the first city in Colorado to ban fracking.  The national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch supports communities across the country that are fighting to protect their health, safety and environment from fracking. Longmont’s case is of particular importance because it could set a precedent across the state of Colorado where many communities oppose giving the oil and gas industry free rein to frack, but are stifled by industry dominance and state law that prohibits municipalities from protecting their citizens’ health and natural resources.

“Longmont is Exhibit A for how the state of Colorado has failed its citizens,” said Sam Schabacker, who grew up in Longmont and is now the Mountain West Region director for Food & Water Watch. “Under the current state regulations, if fracking goes forward in Longmont, it could take place next to half of the city’s schools, in parks and our neighborhoods. This may mean big profits for oil and gas companies but no amount of money should trump the right to clean air, clean water, or a safe place for children to live and play. The people of Longmont deserve to be part of the decision-making process that will ultimately impact their families’ health, safety and the property values of their homes.”

A moratorium on drilling in Longmont expires on June 16, 2012. When the moratorium expires, fracking could take place throughout much of Longmont– next to homes, in open spaces and parks such as Union Reservoir, Sandstone Ranch and McIntosh Lake, and next to half of the city’s schools.

There are over 47,000 fracked wells throughout Colorado and the oil and gas industry is aggressively moving to dramatically increase that number.  Twenty percent of the known chemicals used in fracking fluid can cause cancer, 37 percent can disrupt the endocrine system, and up to 50 percent can affect nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems. According to a Denver Post analysis of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) database, there is more than one spill of fluids associated with oil and gas activity each day in Colorado. One well next to Trail Ridge Middle School in Longmont was found to have 98 times the allowable amount of cancer-causing Benzene in the groundwater.

A recent University of Colorado-Denver School of Public Health report found that people living within a half-mile of fracking operations were exposed to air pollutants five times above the federal hazard standard, which could increase their chances of developing cancer by 60 percent.

“The COGCC states that it is charged with promoting ‘efficient exploration and production of oil and gas resources in a manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety and welfare,’ but they have failed to initiate a single study verifying that fracking is safe,” said Peter Champe with Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont. “State government persistently supports the oil and gas industry’s plans to expand fracking across the state despite communities’ concerns based on mounting data that suggests significant health impacts.”

For more information and to see a copy of the petition, please visit: OurLongmont.org

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, is a group of concerned citizens from throughout Longmont. We believe that Longmont has a right to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of our community.  Our goal is to preserve the quality of life in our exceptional city by protecting the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens.  By so doing we will preserve our economic vitality, our home values, our water, parks, wildlife, lakes, trails, streams, open space, and recreational areas for ourselves and future generations.

Food and Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume are safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.

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