Trustees of a small town straddling Colorado’s conservative Weld County and liberal Boulder County narrowly voted down an “emergency” one-year fracking moratorium last week.
Instead of imposing a moratorium, Erie trustees said, they will work with the oil and gas industry “to address community concerns about noise, truck traffic and setbacks from housing.”
The 4-3 vote is the latest setback for green groups who have sought to dismantle Colorado fracking through a series of municipal and county bans and moratoriums on fracking. Last summer, Loveland voters voted down a moratorium ballot measure. Meanwhile, courts have recently struck down fracking bans and moratoriums in Longmont, Fort Collins, Lafayette, Broomfield.
Justifying his vote, one Erie trustee cited concerns about high litigation costs that may arise from a moratorium, the Washington Times reports:
“We were elected to represent our citizens and do what we honestly believe is best for the town, and I don’t believe that enacting a moratorium is what is best for the town,” trustee Waylon Schutt said in the Longmont Times-Call. “I think it will hinder our ability to negotiate [memorandums of understanding]. I think it will send a lot of taxpayer money toward litigation.”
Some of the strongest challenges may come from mineral-rights owners, who claim fracking bans and moratoriums violate their property rights and merit compensation. Already, Colorado lawmakers are considering a set of bills that would require municipalities that impose fracking moratoriums or bans to compensate such landowners. Meanwhile, Boulder County taxpayers could pay as much as $1 billion if mineral-rights owners prevail in court, estimated one study released last summer.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.