Google Earth view of network of well pads in Weld County, Colorado
If they weren’t already, fracking and fracking regulations are becoming more and more political. Colorado is at the forefront of this debate due to the proximity of extraction operations and affluent communities such as Boulder, CO. Several of these communities have voted to ban drilling operations, and setup an epic fight with the state government who says they should have control over regulations (including any bans). But the negotiations at the state level seem to be stalled for what regulations should exist. Why is this interesting? It is likely that whatever model works in Colorado will be adopted by other states, as well as influence federal policy (such as rules proposed by the Bureau of Land Management). It seems from this report that outside interests are influencing the negotiations for a solution:
“Part of the reason could be an ideological opposition to tougher regulations within the large trade associations, or their wider membership, just as large unions tend to be uncompromising about trade policy or find themselves defending all their members, no matter what, said Floyd Ciruli, a Denver-based pollster.”
Not only is the American Petroleum Institute (API) involved but an intense Senate race between Udall and Gardner have focused some of their efforts on this hot button issue – clearly an attempt to get votes from their respective anti- and pro-fracking constituents. In addition the legal fights, and the possibility of state level regulations, there are also several ballot measures (supported by Congressman Polis) that would increase setbacks (distance between operations and residences) and allow local control of fracking operations. Gardner opposes these, and from the article linked above, it sounds like this is putting Udall in a difficult position – in the past Udall has been a strong proponent of the environment…
But Dick Wadhams, former chairman of the state GOP and now a Colorado-based Republican consultant, argued that the issue will develop as a problem for Udall as he and Gardner meet for debates and take to the campaign trail in earnest this fall.
“The fact is this kind of splits the Democratic Party down the middle,” Wadhams said. “It will drive up turnout among those folks who see fracking as a driver of the economy and the jobs. Udall is in a no-win position with those initiatives on the ballot.”
The legal battles between the state and communities will likely drag on for a while.. in the latest chapter, a judge has struck down Longmont’s ban..will the ban will stay in place while Longmont appeals..
The companies that operate in Colorado seem (in my limited opinion) to be open to regulations and are aware of the public perception issues that “fracking” has. This opinion is mostly based on my experience with these companies at the the Natural Gas Symposiums at CSU. We’ll see how this all plays out..