By DAN ELLIOTT – Associated Press – Jul. 11, 2015
DENVER (AP) — Environmentalists and the energy industry have fought decisive battles over fracking in New York, Oklahoma and Texas, but the outcome is unclear in Colorado, where the issue could go to a ballot fight in the 2016 election.
A task force convened by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper tried to find a compromise over who should regulate the industry — the state or local government — and to what extent. But fracking critics were bitterly disappointed when the panel suggested leaving regulatory power in state hands and avoided recommending specific health, environmental and safety rules.
“I think the fossil fuels industry won,” said Karen Dike, a member of Coloradans Against Fracking.
Fracking is a pressing issue in Colorado, the nation’s No. 7 energy-producing state. Along the urban Front Range, expanding suburbs and booming oilfields are running into each other, and drilling rigs sometimes show up near public schools. Several municipal attempts to ban fracking have failed, and the industry warns that local control would stifle energy development.
Dike and others won’t say whether they plan to put measures that would restrict fracking on the 2016 ballot, but they don’t rule it out.
Frank McNulty, a Republican former state lawmaker who sponsored a pro-industry ballot measure in 2014, expects fracking opponents to turn to voters next year.
“I don’t think that it’s settled,” he said.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, injects water, sand and chemicals under high pressure to crack open underground formations and make it easier to recover oil and gas. The industry says it’s safe.
Opponents won a significant victory in New York, where regulators formalized a statewide fracking ban on June 29, citing environmental and public health risks.
In May, the industry prevailed in Texas and Oklahoma, where new state laws prevent local governments from banning fracking.
Colorado hasn’t imposed sweeping measures favoring either side, in part because of a nearly even three-way electoral split among Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated voters.