Colorado residents chafing at the rapidly expanding oil and gas operations along the Front Range are pressuring their local governments for protection from industrial light, noise, vibration and pollution within city limits.
But state officials insist they alone have the right to regulate how and where the industry does its drilling. State attorneys are fighting local governments that try to impose their own rules.
This fuels a growing movement of residents wondering whether the local home-rule form of government established in Colorado’s Constitution means no rule when it comes to oil and gas.
“The state has failed to protect us and is – in fact – acting on behalf of the oil-and-gas industry to try to ram hazardous drilling and fracking down our throats,” said Dave Gardner, director of Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights.
“So we’re forced to protect our citizens by asserting our home-rule authority,” he said. “If this must be defended in court, we’ll defend it. We’re confident the courts will ultimately validate our right.”
Longmont was the first to be sued by the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission after the City Council passed tough rules including mandatory 750-foot buffers between wells and homes, and full disclosure by companies of chemicals they inject during the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
The outright ban on in-town drilling by Fort Collins’ City Council last week was immediately called illegal by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
And when Arapahoe, Elbert and El Paso county commissioners began tweaking local rules, Attorney General John Suthers warned them that any rules controlling noise, lights, well location, harm to wildlife and impact on air and water will be pre-empted by the state.