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Fort Collins bans fracking despite governor's threat
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Fort Collins bans fracking despite governor's threat

A fracking operation in Erie, Colo. (File photo by Troy Hooper)
A fracking operation in Erie, Colo. (File photo by Troy Hooper)
One week after Gov. John Hickenlooper warned he would sue any community that bans fracking, Fort Collins is putting his threat to the test.

By a vote of 5 to 2, Fort Collins City Council banned hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, on the ordinance's final reading Tuesday night.

Fort Collins is the second city in Colorado to permanently outlaw fracking. Longmont voters banned the controversial oil and gas extraction process in November. The Colorado Oil & Gas Association, which is a trade group, has sued Longmont, asking a judge to overturn the ban because it is blocking $500 million in tappable resources. Separately, the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission sued Longmont over legislation its city council passed in July that set stricter drilling regulations than the ones the state has implemented.

Not long ago, Fort Collins City Council considered putting a fracking ban on the April ballot. But after receiving an outpouring of support, it went ahead and preliminarily passed a ban on its own in February.

In response, Hickenlooper went on television and threatened to sue any Colorado city or county that outlaws fracking. The governor told CBS News 4 in Denver that fracking bans constitute a taking of mineral rights, and are against state law. His spokesman, Eric Brown, immediately elaborated.

"The governor takes no joy in suing local government," Brown wrote in an email to the Denver iJournal last week. "As a former mayor [of Denver] he respects local planning and control. He also has an obligation to uphold the law. The governor wants to be honest with local communities about the state’s legal obligations. Bans like the one under consideration in Fort Collins violate state law."

Now, however, there is no longer a ban under consideration in Fort Collins. It has become final.

Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Ohlson said "the governor should spend his time protecting the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Colorado rather than acting like the chief lobbyist for the oil and gas industry.”

Citing Hickenlooper's legal threat, council member Wade Troxell, who was in the minority, said he felt he was "doing the right thing for the citizens of Fort Collins" by voting against the ban.

But most of the citizens who showed up at the meeting spoke in favor of the ban.

Environmentalists across the state quickly hailed the city's decision.

“The Fort Collins City Council stood up to the bullies — Governor Hickenlooper and the Big Oil and Gas Industry — to protect citizens and their health and property by banning fracking in the city,” Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action, a Colorado-based citizens' group that he says has 2,000 members in Fort Collins, wrote in an email late Tuesday night.  “People are taking charge of their democracy, wrestling it away from powerful special interests. Longmont was first, Fort Collins second, who will be third?"

Reporting on the Fort Collins City Council meeting was done via live webcast.
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