Fracking fight coming to Loveland?

The City of Longmont has been criticized and sued -- once by the state, once by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association -- over its citizens' decision last fall to ban fracking within the city limits. That's discouraged other local governments along the Front Range that have been thinking about getting tough on oil and gas drilling in their backyards, too. But it hasn't scared a group of activists in Loveland, who are pushing for a two-year moratorium on the practice despite reluctance from town leaders to enter the fray.

This week, a group called Protect Our Loveland filed notice of intent to put an initiative on the November ballot asking residents to approve a two-year timeout from drilling, giving the community an opportunity to study and discuss emerging research on the possible risks to air and water of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking -- the practice of pumping water mixed with toxic chemicals into tight shale formations to extract oil and gas. Loveland's city council adopted new regs for oil and gas operations this spring, but in a press release, the group described those rules as "ineffective."

"The state and the industry are constantly stating that they have the right to drill," says Protect Our Loveland co-founder Matt Fredricey. "Well, we have rights, too, and it is our right to know how we may be affected."

Earlier this week, the Loveland City Council studiously skirted taking any action on a moratorium itself. As gas rigs move closer to more heavily populated residential areas, several Front Range communities have pondered bans or tough restrictions, but most have relented, citing concerns over the kind of litigation Longmont is now facing for its outright ban. Recently officials in Fort Collins rescinded its fracking ban, while the Boulder County commissioners voted to let their moratorium expire.

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Governor John Hickenlooper has maintained that the state has the primary regulatory authoritiy for oil and gas exploration, while COGA has challenged the Longmont ban as a "taking" of property from those holding mineral rights.

Is Loveland up for its own fracking fracas? Stay tuned.

More from our Environment archive: "Video: Fracking protesters disrupt energy conference with balloon alarms."

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