Fracking – Promise or Predicament?
Through most of the twentieth century, its rich natural resources allowed the United States to enjoy complete energy independence. But in the 1970s, the country was forced to begin to import petroleum, and has continued to import a large proportion of its petroleum ever since. As a result, the hope of regaining energy independence seemed to be a pipedream. However, with the discovery of large reservoirs of natural gas trapped between layers of shale, coupled with the development of hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as fracking), hopes that the United States may someday regain energy independence has been renewed.
Nonetheless, the process has been controversial wherever it has been considered, and Colorado is no exception. With its legislature and governor’s seat controlled by left-leaning Democrats, Colorado has mounted challenges to several contentious issues, including gun legislation. Also, changes to Colorado fracking and overtime laws continue to bring forth legal cases to watch. One example is a referendum scheduled to appear on the ballot in November 2013 that asks voters to consider a five-year ban on fracking to allow for time to study its environmental and health impacts. The referendum was subject to considerable legal wrangling until stakeholders on both sides of the issue were able to agree on the wording of the referendum.
The wording that will appear on the ballot represents a compromise struck after both sides met with Judge Patrick Murphy of Broomfield, Colorado. After the meeting with the judge, the ordinance now reads as follows: “”Shall Broomfield’s Home Rule Charter be amended for five years so as to prohibit the use of hydraulic fracturing to extract oil, gas, or other hydrocarbons within the City and County of Broomfield and to prohibit the disposal or open pit storage of solid or liquid wastes created in connection with the hydraulic fracturing process?”
Mineral Owners Property Rights
Our Broomfield, a citizen action group, originally pushed for the ordinance to appear on the ballot. However, the group filed a complaint after reading the original ordinance, claiming that the language was biased in favor of fracking. Specifically, the group objected to language in the original ballot that referred to mineral owners property rights.
Health and Safety
On the other hand, the Broomfield City Council objected to language that Our Broomfield wanted to include in the ordinance. The citizens group originally called for the ordinance to refer to the health and safety impacts of fracking. However, the Broomfield City Council objected, claiming that including such language in the ordinance automatically implies that fracking is harmful.
Reaching a Compromise
Both sides expressed satisfaction with the language devised by Judge Murphy, stating that the ordinance in its present form was substantive without being biased. The judge removed mention of controversial language on both sides of the issue. As a result, the city council voted to approve the revised ordinance for appearance on the upcoming ballot. Our Broomfield was also satisfied that the revised referendum reflected what it called its main intention – requesting a five-year ban on fracking.