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Colorado Town Faces Lawsuits Over Fracking Ban

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Longmont, COWhile the ongoing debate over hydraulic fracturing water contamination continues, one municipality in Colorado has taken the bull by the horns in banning fracking outright. That decision this past November by the voters of Longmont, which is located near Boulder, is popular with residents and equally unpopular with oil and gas companies, and even the state.

Residents of Longmont, according to a report in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (11/26/12) voted in the fracking ban with full knowledge the municipality could face hydraulic fracking litigation. And it is.

What is fracking?

The practice is a relatively recent development whereby gas and oil reserves trapped in rock underground are inaccessible by way of traditional harvesting methods. Oil and gas companies have found a way to unlock those reserves by drilling down, and then across into underground rock and forcing water and hydraulic fracturing chemicals into the rock under high pressure. This, in turn, fractures the rock sufficiently to allow for the release of trapped oil and gas reserves.

Advocates maintain hydrofracking is safe. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given EPA hydraulic fracking a pass, provided frackers operate under approved guidelines. However, critics maintain the practice threatens their wells and contaminates groundwater. There have been fracking lawsuits, and You Tube is overflowing with images of homeowners setting their kitchen taps on fire, igniting the water with a lighter.

Article 16, which bans fracking, was enacted by voters. The ban not only prevents the process of hydraulic fracking, but also bans the storage of contaminated water—a byproduct of water fracking.

The mayor of the small farming town, Dennis L. Coombs, knew the measure would face legal action. "People really didn't think through this too well," said Coombs. "We are where we are. I guess you have to respect the people." His comments were published in the Star-Advertiser.

Hydrofracking lawsuits have, indeed, hit the old farming town located at the base of the Rocky Mountains. When Longmont municipal council adopted new oil and gas rules this past July, the move promoted a lawsuit by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Prior to the November election, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper warned that enacting the ban would all but guarantee a lawsuit against Longmont from the state, according to the Longmont Times-Call (12/5/12).

On December 4th, the Mayor said the ban, now legally in place, would be vigorously defended.

Residents are concerned not only about fracking chemicals and the impact such chemical would have on groundwater, but also that hydrofracking is occurring so close to public parks, golf courses and open spaces. They point to nearby Firestone, where fracking wells sit within close proximity to schools, libraries and subdivisions. Earlier this year a federal scientist reported elevated levels of propane and benzene in the air around Erie.

Critics say hydraulic fracturing contamination is to blame.

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