Trouble in the Colonies

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Canadian natural gas development company EnCana is worried about its Colorado fracking colony, where the locals are restless and suggesting they might prefer local control over the industrial development in their midst

CALGARY — Canadian energy giant Encana Corp. says its operations in Colorado could be hampered by a state ballot initiative that, if successful, would bring oil and gas drilling under local government control.

Groups concerned about the impacts of industry activity want to amend the state's constitution to give municipalities the right to limit energy development.

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, local governments in Colorado may place restrictions on the time, place or method of oil and gas development, including but not limited to the use of hydraulic fracturing, that are intended to protect their communities and citizens," the amendment reads.

When the colonies first dared to break from the Monarchy, one particularly incorrigible rabble-rouser—the very one who wrote the treasonous Declaration of Independence—noted that:

"The government closest to the people serves the people best."

– Thomas Jefferson

Such disrespect for the Crown, is also troubling to the Governor, who wishes to quell the Colonists’ unruly ways:

Hickenlooper organized a news conference on Tuesday to highlight the new rules, which he supported amid growing criticism of his administration’s support for so-called “fracking.”

A groundswell of anger intensified after the state sued Longmont in 2012 for enacting oil and gas rules and regulations that overstepped the state’s authority. Longmont was then sued by the oil and gas industry last year after voters there backed prohibiting fracking altogether. The state has also been supportive of that lawsuit, arguing that a patchwork of local rules and regulations make compliance difficult.

Hickenlooper said he is not deaf to the growing concerns. 

But the drillers remained troubled by the disgruntled surface-dwellers that live above their minerals:

Encana flagged the initiative as a risk factor in its year-end disclosure documents.

"Though broad in nature, the ballot initiative is understood to be primarily intended to restrict oil and gas development in the state," the Calgary-based company said.

"This and other possible measures could make certain Colorado jurisdictions inaccessible to drilling in the future. Therefore, it is possible that the company's operations in Colorado could be impeded should such initiatives succeed."

Thus the Colorado Oil and Gas Association—which represents the energy companies in the Colorado colony has filed suit to put local communities back in their proper place, under the rule of the state:

In addition to the Longmont court challenge, separate lawsuits are ongoing in Broomfield, Fort Collins and Lafayette. The Broomfield case is based on alleged election administration errors, while the challenges in Fort Collins and Lafayette are on the merits of the anti-fracking initiatives themselves, similar to the case in Longmont.

So disaffected locals seem to be turning to this novel idea of ‘self-governance’ and so-called ‘democracy’:

On Feb. 21, a coalition calling itself Local Control Colorado submitted language to the state for a constitutional amendment that would allow communities to ban fracking without having to fear being sued.

If the ballot language were approved then the group would need 86,500 valid signatures by Aug. 4 to send the question to voters.

The proposed language reads, “Not withstanding any other provision of law, local governments in Colorado may place restrictions on the time, place or method of oil-and-gas development, including but not limited to the use of hydraulic fracturing, that are intended to protect their communities and citizens.

“No local government may enact any limitations, rules or regulations on oil-and-gas development that are less stringent than existing state and federal provisions,” it continues.

“Any such restrictions placed by local governments on oil-and-gas development are deemed not to be in conflict with the state’s interests,” the language concludes.

Some locals even dared to send a declaration to the Governor urging that he recognize local jurisdiction over zoning and land use:

“While the State has an important role to play in setting broad statewide protections, local governments should be able to go beyond this baseline; the fact is, local governments are best equipped to make local decisions about land use in their communities — not the State,” the letter concluded. “Please recognize and support our rights and responsibilities to make these decisions and take action to assure local control over oil and gas development.”

“Local elected officials need assurance that the state will recognize and support our rights and responsibilities to make land use decisions, including controlling oil and gas development,” added Adams County Commissioner Eva Henry. “With multiple pending legal challenges to communities’ right to self-determination, time is of the essence.” 

“It is crucial for local officials to have the authority to regulate the pace and scale of oil and gas drilling within our communities so we can ensure the health and safety of our residents, maintain local property values and foster our long-term economic vitality,” continued Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones. “Without a common sense solution, cities, towns and counties are thwarted in making decisions that are in the best interest of their residents without the fear of expensive litigation.”

26 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Encana seems as if it might be getting ready to emulate Magpul – see what kind of incentives and legal protections it can squeeze out of local governments to keep its few jobs in the state.

    How else would you interpret this, other than as a veiled threat if the local control initiative succeeds?

    This and other possible measures could make certain Colorado jurisdictions inaccessible to drilling in the future. Therefore, it is possible that the company's operations in Colorado could be impeded should such initiatives succeed. –

    Hick, whose interests will you defend, those of a Canadian energy company, or those of your constituents? Coloradans are watching.

  2. ct says:

    The difference is EnCana has to go 1-where the gas is and 2-they have billions invested in infrastructure. 

    • kickshot says:


      1) the gas is upwind/upstream from me

      2) did you just put a price tag on my health and well-being?

      • ct says:

        Who is that question directed to? I don't understand what you are asking.  

        • kickshot says:

          I worked hard on the Lafayette Question 300, to get it on the ballot and to get it passed. I may be hypersensitive when it O&G investment is (or appears to be) touted as one reason that larger population centers can be invaded and must bear the brunt of toxic industrial activity; maybe I misread your statement; maybe it was not worded well.

          Fracking is not inevitable or unstoppable. The Front Range is a very small area of the total geography where natgas might be harvestable.

          Mamajama has the same questions that a lot of us have … Does it have to be so uncontrolled if the potential of seriuous harm exists?

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      Is there a way for energy extractors to spend more billions mitigating the damages to air and water from O&G production?

      It's a real question – I don't know. I understand that the new rules mandate equipment to capture methane emissions, and that these modifications are relatively cheap.

      If Encana wanted to stay in Colorado & Wyoming, on top of the gas patches, is there a way for them to make their activities not harmful to the environment or noxious to their neighbors?

      • kickshot says:

        The fact that fracking is progressing ever closer to more densely populated areas along the Front Range while that question remains largely unanswered  was a lrge motivator for the ballot actions that were passed in November.

        What other tools do we have?

        • ct says:

          I agree with forcing the issue of local control.  That's the point of the diary. Its snark, not suggesting that we should really bow down to Queen industry.

          I supported local control when the activity was out in Bumblephut, Colorado too, when people on the Front Range didn't really care what was happening to Rifle.

          I have been working on this issue in Colorado since the 1990s back when it was getting tested and developed in the Piceance, long before fracking hit the Front Range.  Its about time people on the Front Range understand what is at stake, and have begun to pay attention and engage, and to consider the impacts of their consumption rather than pretend its out of sight out of mind.  Now we need to get it on the ballot and win.  

  3. ct says:

    The local control issue won't chase oil and gas producers out of the state, but it might limit their activity significantly in certain jurisdictions.  But yes, there are all sorts of Best Management Practices that reduce and lessen (but not eliminate) impacts.  They cost money, and money is their Monarch to which they have sworn absolute fealty.  The EnCana quotes here are from their stockholder disclosures, basically notifying investors of a new financial 'risk' to whit, having to pay attention to pesky locals.  

  4. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    To quote Gus Speth from "The Bridge at the End of the World"

    What kind of growth do we want? Jobless growth, where $$ grow but not jobs; ruthless growth, where the benefits are mostly for the wealthy; voiceless growth, where growth isn't accompanied by an increase in democracy; rootless growth, which impoverishes our local economies; and futureless growth, where we squander our future generations' resources (emphasis mine)

    To keep the mining industry in perspective, the entire industry is 4% of our state's GDP.  Natural gas accounts for a little over half of that, coming in at around 2.25%.  To put that in perspective to our science in high-tech sector, they produce nearly 2x as many jobs per point of GDP – and account for almost 10% of the states pie.

    This is a conversation about equity and arithmetic.  Many of our Front Range communities, rich in human capital and an external environment that draws this demographic to Colorado, want the option to "do the math".  Are they willing to trade a promised, short-term gain via "drill, baby, drill" for building an epicenter of human and capital assets that creates a thriving, long-term Front Range economy without denigrading the environment?  The majority of the citizens are at least suggesting that someone "put their foot on the brake."

    It's hard to argue that we haven't been treating this valuable, finite resource of the state akin to one of Jordan Belfort's penny stock schemes.  We have a severance tax rate that is a fraction of that in Wyoming (there's a reason Wyoming education is well-funded and has no need to pass ballot initiatives to fund their system).  Until now we've dealt with an unregulated emissions profile that adversely affects human health and crop production.  Our Front Range farmers can not compete with the sheer amount of money held by the oil and gas industry to maintain their water supplies.

    All of this happening in a region that is a food desert. 

    My grandmother use to say, "none of us can be as dumb as all of us".  Natural gas extraction is a system.  An eco-system of activities that not only include the use and effects upon our land, air and water – but our state treasury. 

    We're not broke – we're being robbed.  It's time to call their bluff


  5. ct says:

    Whenever you make your bid Mr. Bowman I'm opening my checkbook.  Well said.  

  6. BlueCatBlueCat says:

    Ditto. Nobody has more credibility on this stuff and nobody is as capable of explaining this stuff. Hope the Colorado Dem party has some inkling of what idiots they've been not to jump all over Michael Bowman as exactly the kind of voice they need to reach the broadest cross section of Colorado voters possible, whether as a candidate or as an adviser on policy and messaging.

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      Thanks BC – I feel like I should be sending you money after those nice comments.   

      You'll appreciate this:  I just got message via Facebook from a Weld County Republican (a friend, but he's pushing my limits).  As you might imagine, he's been reading the conservative blogs about this initiative. I tried to explain my position in this way:  recently the Greeley City Council exerted their "home rule prerogative" in determining that no retail marijuana stores are located in their city (even though the consumption of marijuana is now legal in Colorado and a part of our state constitution). In doing so, they cite safety and public health concerns. I explained to him that their concerns are no different from those of their neighbors to the west who view fracking operations through the same public safey and public health lens.

      'Home Rule' is part of our unique, Colorado fabric. As a member of Yuma County Planning and Zoning Commission for 12 years, serving as it's Chairman the last four of those years during the explosive expansion of the county's livestock and natural gas boom in the mid-90's, I know how important it is for communities to assure their self-determination on land use issues. 

      In short, if Greeley wants to ban marijuana and bank their long-term future on gas extraction, that should be their decision to make.  If Broomfield, Lafayette, Longmont, Boulder and Ft. Collins determine their best long-term economic strategy shouldn't involve fracking inside their city limits, then they should have that right to self-determine as well.  It's a pretty simple concept. 



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