New York’s Fracking Ban–Of Course It Matters To Colorado

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

The Denver Business Journal's Cathy Proctor has a great story published yesterday with local reaction to the decision by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration in mid-December to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas entirely. New York state does not have the kind of widespread frackable energy deposits found in Colorado, but the region's rich Marcellus Shale formation stretches into some less-populated counties in the southern part of the state.

New York's reputation as an East Coast liberal stronghold is the first and most obvious line of defense for Colorado's growing army of energy industry spin doctors, but Proctor's story today demonstrates that the fight over fracking in Colorado is going to be impacted by New York's decision one way or another:

Asked about Cuomo's decision, [Gov. John] Hickenlooper said, via an email from his spokeswoman, that "Colorado is not New York and every state has to find the approach to energy development that makes sense for their communities."

"Colorado is fortunate to have an abundance of energy resources and a long history of environmentally responsible energy development, he said. "The work of our task force will ensure we continue to develop in a way that is safe for our residents, supports jobs and the economy, respects private property rights and protects our environment."

At the other end of the spectrum, [Rep. Jared] Polis criticized Colorado's existing regulations because they don't allow individuals and communities to decide where oil and gas operations should take place.

"While the state of New York has concluded the risks are too great to allow fracking at all, in Colorado homeowners aren't even allowed to stop oil and gas companies from drilling on their own property, despite potentially being only a few hundred feet from their home or school," Polis said in a statement. [Pols emphasis]

"I hope rather than banning it as a state, we let each homeowner and community decide if they want fracking or not," he said.

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Here's something we've said before, and that even the leftiest anarcho-primitivist yurt dweller (you know who you are) needs to understand: there will be no statewide fracking ban in Colorado. When Gov. John Hickenlooper says that "Colorado is not New York," he's stating the obvious. There is only a very small percentage of fairly radical voters who will disagree with unabashedly pro-fracking Gov. Hickenlooper's view that energy development in Colorado is important, makes a lot of people in Colorado money, and has a long history. There is lots of debate over the degree of energy's importance to the state's economy, but it certainly does matter more to Colorado than to, say, New York.

But that's not really the point, because there will be no statewide ban on fracking in Colorado.

Fracking is not a new technology, but its widespread recent use to recover previously inaccessible oil and gas underlying a large area of Colorado's Front Range has brought mineral rights owners and the energy industry into direct conflict with densely populated residential communities. The industry's asserted right to operate their dirty industrial process anywhere there are mineral rights to do so results in horrendous land use conflicts that would never be allowed otherwise: heavy industry in neighborhoods, and next to schools. This is what has led to several Front Range cities passing moratoria and bans on fracking within their boundaries, directly challenging the state's hegemony over energy development.

We'll have more to say about the battle in Colorado over fracking, a battle with Democratic champions on both sides now in Hickenlooper and Rep. Jared Polis, as we continue to recap the year's biggest stories in Colorado politics. New York's decision to ban fracking is just one new discussion item in a debate that raged furiously in 2014 in Colorado, and is set to intensify early next year as the commission brokered in the uneasy truce between the energy industry and environmental groups allied with Rep. Polis makes policy recommendations on local control over drilling.

Here's the full report from the New York Department of Health. You'll notice pretty quickly that it asks more questions that it provides answers. But in large part, these are the same questions the people of Colorado are asking about fracking–and we're going to have to reckon with them here too. The absurdly shrill attacks on Polis and environmentalists this year for daring to challenge the status quo on this issue are severely discredited by New York's action–especially when you consider than none of the measures backed by Polis would have done what New York just did.

And the bottom line is, there won't be a statewide fracking ban in Colorado. We think it's important to say that over and over, since the energy industry's high-dollar PR campaign revolves around the hypothetical consequences of a fictitious proposal.

But having said that, New York's fracking ban is going to factor in Colorado's debate over fracking. And it should.

27 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. BoulderDem says:

    Alright, Governor, if New York has to …

    find the approach to energy development that makes sense for their communities

    please explain why Colorado communities can not …

    find the approach to energy development that makes sense for [them].

  2. exlurker19 says:

    Hey, I resent that:

    leftiest anarcho-primitivist yurt dweller (you know who you are),

    but, yeah, I know who I am.

  3. dustpuppy says:

    I still want Frackenlooper to drink the fracked water and tell the world that it’s perfectly safe.

    He won’t do it because he knows it’s toxic.

    I wish that Frackenlooper would agree to a complete ban on fracking and use what’s existing in terms of extracting oil and convert all O&G money to alternative energy. It’s the future, and we need to make sure we’re still ahead of the game.

  4. Sunmusing says:

    If one corrupt governor can do it…the money is overwhelming, and I don't think our good governor is really on our side…

  5. taterheaptom says:

    Saying that 'fracking is not a new technology' in the context of any current discussion is not unlike discussing the AirAsia jet disappearing by referencing Kitty Hawk.

  6. MichaelBowman says:

    Pope to Issue 2015 Edict on Climate Change Guaranteed to Anger Deniers


    “The system continues unchanged, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money. Cash commands."


    There is little doubt that Francis' next move will be viewed as 'environmental radicalism' and will almost assuredly be met with fervent resistance by Vatican conservatives and in rightwing church circles – particularly in the US, where Catholic climate sceptics also include John Boehner, Republican leader of the House of Representatives and Rick Santorum, the former Republican presidential candidate.

    How on Earth can we expect Boehner to finance Republican elections if he turns his back on the Fossilonians? (4 out of every 5 dollars in campaign contributions in the 2014 election cycle from the fossil fuel industry went to Republicans).

    This is the point at which I refer you to my opening comment,


    "…it is no longer man who commands, but money."

  7. taterheaptom says:

    Sounds like Pols has been sipping the Frackaid too.  Positing the debate between leftist anarchro blah blah blah and the rest of the reasonable universe.  Hello shark!  

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      Guess Jared Polis is a sellout too, huh? You're going to find yourself short on friends in that ivory tower.

    • BlueCat says:

      I  think you miss Pol's point. The whole yurt dweller thing seems to me a rhetorical use of hyperbole to underline the basic premise which I believe they state correctly when they say: 

      Here's something we've said before, and that even the leftiest anarcho-primitivist yurt dweller (you know who you are) needs to understand: there will be no statewide fracking ban in Colorado. – (my emphasis)

      • PiceanceDog says:

        Maybe the point being made is that such rhetorical flourish is unhelpful to really addressing the issue.  

        • JeffcoBlue says:

          Left-baiting is a time honored tradition among Democrats, many of whom are trying to be helpful while they do it. I don't love it but I have a thick enough skin to see past it. Overall the Guvs are making good points.

          To me a total fracking ban is like single payer health care. It might do some good but it's just not realistic for Colorado. What Colorado needs is local control, with teeth.

          Am I wrong?

          • taterheaptom says:

            I concur.  And on healthcare we need a robust public option, it is precisely the initial abandonment of that at the get go that has made the ACA as troubled as it truly is, the desire to defend it against trolls and their ilk aside.  If we want to have strong local control, with teeth, we need to make sure it is not the province of those easily painted as yurt-dwellers or their close neighbors.   

          • PiceanceDog says:

            I agree the dead guvs are correct that a statewide ban is unlikely–from the governor, legislature or at the ballot box–and with you that left-baiting is not to be loved.

            Interesting to note that on twitter it seems those who most love to hold up the Gov's (not dead one's) words– that CO is not NY–are groups like Energy-In-Depth.  

            Colorado is not New York, but that says little about where public opinion might go.  This state has a long established populist tradition.    

      • MichaelBowman says:

        It's the bookend to the rhetoric, "110,000 jobs" that is constantly bantered about… (with due credit to MamaJ)

        • ct says:

          It seems the bookends would be –


          On one hand, 

          Fracking imposes too many unknowns and likelihood of risks to be allowed although it drives a lot of revenue and creates 35,000 or so jobs in Colorado (reality) vs. (on the other): Yurt-dwelling anarchists want to rise up and ban 110,000 jobs in Colorado and hand over the Ukraine to Putin (rhetoric)

          The problem is, the latter is being pushed as fact, while the reality is not really talked about much at all.  The 'left' (non-yurt-dwelling) does seem to concede a lot of ground before it even shows up to fight.  



      • MichaelBowman says:

        …and MamaJ has also pointed out that Vestas Wind Energy employs twice the people in Weld County as does Haliburton:

  8. taterheaptom says:

    George Mitchell.  The Piceance Basin in the 1990s – 2008 (until Bush's Great Recession hits).  The reason this person and this time/place is relevant (other than one is a Texas oil man and the other a western Colorado tight-sands dry gas play) is the pioneering use of fracking, deployed horizontally with multi-stage deployment of massively increased volumes and pressures than previously deployed in vertical wells.  Man has been flying for over a hundred years, you know? 

    The whole reason we have a shale play at all–declining, insanely expensive, over-leveraged that it is notwithstanding– is because horizontal multi-stage fracking is newly developed (mid 90's, see above).  

    That Pols would spit tan industry talking point back up as simple fact, unqualified  with any nuance or reality (as in what is actually happening in the gas and oil patches) is disappointing; its virtually lifted from the ''  website (which pretends to answer questions but no matter what you type in your get the same few responses, kind of like the Magic 8 ball where all the answers are "YES!  Drill and Frack!").   

    It is the routine dismissal of legitimate concerns by the industry and their apologists in both parties that fuels the backlash.  Pols should do a  better job unless it wants to be more and more aligned with the 'establishment' and less and less with a progressive movement.  

    We may not be heading to a statewide fracking ban in Colorado but unless some in political leadership wise up we are heading back to the ballot, in 2016, 2018, 2020.  If the establishment and legislature are worried about the unruliness of democracy unchecked by the fat contributions of donors, they had better listen to their actual constituents (including those being fracked and drilled) and less to their cash constituents.  

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      Sorry, which industry talking point did Pols use? I agree with a lot of what you say here. I guess I don't see where they disagree.

      • taterheaptom says:

        To suggest that fracking is a technology that has been around a long time, as it is currently deployed, is not accurate.  I don't think–and never stated–that Pols, Polis, you, or anyone (in the comments here) are sell outs.  

        Fracking is being deployed in a way, manner and degree that makes it apples and oranges to what was going on in the 50's or even 80s, and repeating that line is parroting what you might find right here.  

        If we want to find a way  forward on this issue we have to acknowledge that there are real issues driving the call (and support, often, beyond the yurt-dweller) for bans.  Its a tough issue for Democrats in Colorado looking at the next few cycles, for sure.  Routinely characterizing those who are doing much of the organizing and obviously tapping into real concern as 'yurt-dwelling ivory tower occupying anarchists' is unhelpful IMO.  That's all.  

        Lots of snow here.  I should get out and throw snowballs at Halliburton trucks or something.   

  9. taterheaptom says:

    PS: Its a "fracking tower" (as Mr. Polis refers to them) lit up like a Christmas Tree in a formally dark night, flaring noxious crap and a plume of black smoke laden with VOCs, and not an Ivory Tower. 

    But thanks for the routine, rote, dismissal.  

  10. taterheaptom says:

    Remember that woman being celebrated a week or so nationally?  Another 90-year-old PhD ground-breaking research scientist, err, I mean anarcho-sydicalist or whatever, I suppose…



  11. taterheaptom says:

    1. responding initially with false accusation of labeling someone a 'sell out' (Pols, Polis?  Neither, actually, in my comment. It was more a tactical observation).

    2. assumption that critique comes from some rarefied position ('Ivory Tower,' it doesn't, it comes from the trenches).  


    Ergo: Dismissive

    Its fricking freezing here.  You?


  12. MichaelBowman says:

    Wow.  Just, wow…

    In North Dakota, a Tale of Oil, Corruption and Death

    "But, in a hall decorated with rigs and tepees, a dice throw from the slot machines, Mr. Hall’s self-assurance belied the fact that his grip on power was slipping. After six years of dizzyingly rapid oil development, anxiety about the environmental and social costs of the boom, as well as about tribal mismanagement and oil-related corruption, had burst to the surface."

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