A few weeks ago, we reported that three cities in Colorado placed bans on fracking, but now the same cities are becoming ground zero in a legal battle for fracking regulations.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association filed lawsuits against Fort Collins and Lafayette on December 3, arguing that the votes to ban fracking in both cities were illegal. The third city, Boulder, was not named in the lawsuit. In Colorado, the authority to impose regulations is granted to the state government, and COGA argues that the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Act specifically says that local laws cannot ban oil and gas development.
According to COGA President Tisha Schuller, any ban on fracking is a ban on the entire oil and gas development in the area since 95 percent of its wells are fracked. The organization is seeking court orders to permanently block the bans.
Although the lawsuit is specific to drilling bans in Colorado, it's an example of a larger battle in the United States. The fight is between those who want to ban fracking altogether, typically environmental groups or cities such as Lafayette, and those who support regulation of the industry by state. Six states, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wyoming and California, have already enacted regulations for fracking. And a seventh state, Alaska, is currently considering making a similar law.
And the war has reached the federal level now too. U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced legislation that would allow states to regulate fracking. The bill passed in the House in early December, and, as currently written, would prohibit the U.S. Department of Interior from imposing fracking regulations or providing guidance in a state that already has its own regulations. However, President Obama has already said he would veto the legislation.
On a local level more than 100 cities have passed laws to ban fracking. The most recent of which was Dallas. On December 11, the Dallas City Council voted to adopt one of the nation's strictest ordinances on drilling. According to the new ordinance, fracking cannot occur within 1,500 feet of a home, school or church — effectively banning the practice within city limits.
Since Texas doesn't currently have state regulations for fracking, the ordinance is likely to stick without any legal implications. The only hiccup could be the fact that Dallas leased some of its city-owned land to gas drillers in 2007.
But it might actually be a clean break for both sides. Although Dallas sits on the edge of the Barnett Shale, drilling in the area has dwindled. In fact, in the six years that the city has leased its land, not a single well has been drilled due to market conditions and disputes among drillers and the city. Instead, most rigs have already been relocated elsewhere.