The Boulder County Commissioners have approved new local regulations governing oil and gas development, specifically fracking, in unincorporated parts of the county. The Commissioners believe the regulations are the toughest in the state but Roz Brown reports that won’t stop fracking opponents like Suzanne Spiegel from continuing efforts to keep fracking out of Boulder County.
“We believe we have to have a strategy regardless of what the Boulder County Commissioners do because we all have a huge stake in whether or not this county is going to be fracked,” said Spiegel.
The Commissioners approved the regulations after fighting the introduction of fracking on county lands for five years by imposing a moratorium. But last year – similar moratoriums in Longmont and Fort Collins were struck down by the Colorado Supreme Court. And more recently the Colorado Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against Boulder County because of its moratorium.
“I asked our staff if these were the toughest regulations we could get – and they said yes,” said Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones. “We believe these are the strongest possible protections we can offer our citizens under the law. At the same time, these rules are not enough and we have more work to do. I understand people’s desire not to have oil and gas drilling in Boulder County but the Colorado Supreme Court ruled local governments cannot permanently ban oil and gas companies and that local governments cannot decide what happens locally which means the Commissioners don’t have as many options as we’d like.”
Commissioner Jones says her fears about the possible ramifications of fracking were brought home dramatically by the recent fire on Boulder’s doorstep.
“We dodged a huge bullet when the Sunshine Canyon wildfire occurred – it could have easily swept into town and as it was resulted in 1,000 evacuations because it’s so hot, and that kind of drought and wildfire risk is what we’re going to experience in a changing climate and we need to do all we can to mitigate that.”
In addition to testimony at public hearings the commissioners said they had received hundreds of emails on the fracking issue. As a result, County Planner Kim Sanchez said public comments have helped shape and strengthen the new oil and gas regulations.
“We’ve gotten a lot of comments from citizens – from how they would like to receive notifications, who should be included, to technical details so citizens have been vitally helpful in this process,” said Sanchez.
The new regulations come just ahead of when the current moratorium on oil and gas operations in Boulder County will expire – May 1st – and that’s when oil and gas operations can submit applications for local drilling sites, pipelines and other facilities. But people like Spiegel with Frack Free Colorado aren’t willing to concede the fight against fracking in Boulder County.
“This is a public trust – we’ve invested over one-hundred million dollars in this land and we’ve been protecting it for specific usage,” said Spiegel. “We believe the County Commissioners should exercise their fiduciary responsibility to defend this public trust, our open space and our fundamental rights. So we believe this money should be used for the legal fund to fight oil and gas drilling but we also realize that we might need to do it ourselves because we the people need to realize our rights are higher than corporations or courts.”
Frack Free Colorado will host a public forum to discuss citizen’s legal rights concerning fracking on Saturday, March 25, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 5001 Pennsylvania Ave. in Boulder at 2 p.m. For more information go to: http://www.frackfreecolorado.com