Colorado is ground zero in the war on fracking across the U.S. At the Western Energy Alliance (WEA) summer meeting in Colorado Springs on June 23-25, the various fracking ban and moratorium initiatives threatening oil and gas activity in the state were leading topics of discussion. The cities of Boulder, Fort Collins and Broomfield all have approved moratoriums on fracking; two others, Longmont and Lafayette, have banned it.
The oil and gas industry in the state has mounted a vociferous battle to protect drilling in the state, with tens of millions of dollars funding media campaigns and outreach. And, during the WEA meeting, there was some good news for the industry: Loveland, Colo., voters knocked down a proposed two-year moratorium on fracking. The vote was close: 10,844 against the moratorium and 9,942 in favor, representing about 50% of registered voters.
Two of the most active drillers in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, Noble Energy Inc . (NYSE: NBL) and Anadarko Petroleum Corp . (NYSE: APC), have funded an initiative called Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) , which seeks to educate voters and garner support to oppose the bans. Some of the ballot initiatives are nothing more than fracking bans disguised as setback rules, said Paul Phillips at the WEA meeting. His company, Pac/West Communications , is managing the CRED program.
Some 11 oil and gas local-control ballot initiatives have been proposed for the fall election, with most focusing on setbacks and siting of drilling. However, signatures must be collected for them to be on the ballot, and the bar--at about 86,000--is high. Initiative 75, one of the 11, has been approved by the court for supporters to collect signatures. Phillips said he hopes it gets on the ballot because it is “so poorly written” that its chances are slim.
At the WEA meeting, Phillips referred to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s efforts to work with the oil and gas industry, business groups and local governments to develop legislation to bring the opposing forces together to avoid the ballot initiatives. This would require a special session of the legislature. This past winter, Hickenlooper helped forge a consensus among the industry, environmental groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and other stakeholders to come up with new stringent rules on methane emissions from oil and gas activity. In addition, the governor’s administration sued the city of Longmont for its vote to bar oil and