A Tale of Two Cities: Oil Drilling and Fracking in Northern Colorado

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Hydraulic Fracturing is a topic that will likely surpass all other controversial topics in Colorado politics in importance and heat generated. It is already one of the biggest issues in our state and is only going to get more contentious in the months and years ahead.

When you add traditional oil and gas drilling to the equation, you quickly understand that how we obtain these natural resources in Colorado will be a debate we have in the Centennial State for some time.

This week, two cities in Northern Colorado provide a glimpse at how different aspects of these issues are being handled and how the arguments will continue.

In Loveland, an anti-fracking group turned in enough petitions to put a two year ban on fracking within the city limits on this year’s ballot. In an unrelated effort, the Loveland city council is working on new rules on buffer zones around drilling sites.

But just down the road in Greeley, city officials approved 18 new oil and gas well sites, nearby a school. The new wells adhere to current regulations for setbacks from the school, and are grouped together to avoid, according to Greeley Assistant City Manager Becky Safarik, having wells spread throughout the town.

For the complete story on the Greeley wells, click here.

The move in Greeley was not done out of a love for oil and natural gas drilling or as some sort of science class sponsored by Halliburton. In fact, Greeley tried to fight the drilling within city limits years ago and lost in court. At this point, they are simply trying to strike the right legal balance of respecting mineral rights and the safety concerns of its citizens.

In Loveland, fracking opponents would likely claim they are simply trying to do the same thing by attempting to get a two year ban put in place. But like the legal issues that Greeley ran into years ago, the path to the ban may be fraught with legal complications.

I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but I imagine that because the state of Colorado is controlling fracking regulations the way they are, any city attempting to ban fracking, even at the ballot box, is going to run into problems.

It’s undeniable that the sides are lining up for a larger war, either at the statewide level or doing battle in various communities across the state.

But as undeniable as the battle over fracking will be, the situations in Loveland and Greeley show us that the issue is not as simple as some would like, for either side of the issue.

Respect for property rights is part of the American DNA. But the environment, especially in the west, has always been in held in high regard as well.

And while this is indeed an issue for the entire state of Colorado, Northern Colorado will be the front lines of this battle.

With what’s happening this week in both Greeley and Loveland, it’s obvious the battle is far from being over.
About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces and hosts the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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