Voters in at least three more Colorado municipalities, as well as another in Ohio, approved anti-fracking measures in yesterday's elections, continuing a trend whereby local communities are standing up in support of their right to self-determination in the face of rapidly expanding oil and gas development nationwide.
In Colorado, residents of Fort Collins approved a 5-year moratorium on any new fracking "in order to fully study the impacts of this process on property values and human health." Boulder voters, meanwhile, extended an existing fracking moratorium until June 2018. And residents of Lafayette adopted a "community bill of rights" that, among other things, prohibits oil and gas extraction from within city limits. A Broomfield measure is still too close to call, and would institute a 5-year moratorium if it passes. In OH, the city of Oberlin also voted to approve a community bill of rights prohibiting fracking.
Several of these Colorado towns were inundated by the recent terrible flooding in the state, which raised serious concerns about potential toxic chemicals from oil and gas development in the floodwaters. It's more understandable now than ever that they would want to take action to avoid those risks in the future.
As I wrote in a letter to the editor of the Denver Post last month:
"Communities should have the right to weigh in on what happens in their backyards. Several Colorado towns have already passed similar measures — as have numerous communities (and some states) nationwide.
"The residents of these places will have to live with the consequences if fracking moves in. They should have the right to say 'no' to an industry run amok and the risks it poses to their drinking water, property values, health and quality of life. That’s what democracy is all about."
Around the country, we're increasingly seeing communities stand up for themselves when their state and/or the federal government has not. Numerous communities, and some entire states, around the country are taking their fracking fate into their own hands.
Unfortunately, as with prior similar measures in both states, industry lawsuits seem likely.
A lawsuit challenging the town of Longmont, CO's ban on fracking adopted by city residents in last November's election is still pending, as is another challenging a similar measure adopted last year in Munroe Falls, OH.
Through its Community Fracking Defense Project, NRDC is helping communities take a stand, and defend them when industry refuses to back down. (We're currently defending the Munroe Falls law, as well as similar local rights in Pennsylvania and New York.) Yesterday's ballot victories show communities everywhere that they don't have to let an industry-run-amok push them around. They can stand up for their right to determine what they want for the future of their own communities.