City of Loveland Two Year Fracking Suspension Initiative, Question 1 (June 2014)

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The City of Loveland Two Year Fracking Suspension Initiative, Question 1 was on the June 24, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of Loveland in Larimer County, Colorado, where it was narrowly defeated. Question 1 was known by supporters as the Loveland Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act.

Measure 1, if approved, would have suspended for two years the process of hydraulic fracturing, the method of extracting oil and gas known as fracking. It would have also prohibited for the same time the storage and disposal of waste products from hydraulic fracturing in the Loveland city limits.[1]

The measure was originally proposed for the November 5, 2013, election ballot but was delayed because of a lawsuit filed against the measure. The city council then decided on July 29 as the date of the election, which would allow the measure to be consolidated with the scheduled county election, costing the city about $30,000 less than a special election. The final election date of June 24, however, was agreed on by city council members as part of a settlement with initiative opponent Larry Sarner, who was threatening to file a lawsuit against the measure. Opponents of the question were generally in favor of this date, which coincided with the primary election, in which Republicans had a full ballot, while those registered as Democrats had less reason to come out and vote. It was expected that the June 24, 2014 election date would see many more voters affiliated with a major party, while independent or unaffiliated voters could show less of a presence. The POL wanted a July 29, 2014 election date.[2][1][3][4]

Election results

Question 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No10,84452.17%
Yes 9,942 47.83%
Election results from Loveland City elections office

Background

Oil and gas drilling in Loveland

Although the city is near an area of heavy well activity, as shown by the map below, city spokesman Tom Hacker stated that, at the time of the Question 1 election, there were only three active wells inside the city limits, where the initiative would have taken effect. He said there were two wells east of Interstate 25, east of County Road 5 and north of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and a third along U.S. Highway 34 near the Loveland Target, which was drilled in the 1980s. Hacker also said, "All three have been operating for a long, long time. There haven’t been any wells drilled recently, nor are there any permits in the works for any wells in the city."[5]

Oil and gas drilling in Colorado

Fracking has been occurring in Colorado since 1969.[6] Naturally seeping oil was found by settlers in Colorado as far back as 1876.[7] In 1901 the first recorded oil well was drilled in the Pierre Shale formation. Then, in 1969, an early form of hydraulic fracturing was used near Rifle, Colorado. Massive fracking occurred in the Watternberg Gas Field beginning in 1973, and was one of the first large-scale fracking operations.[8]

Map of oil and gas wells around the City of Loveland

The map to the right shows active oil and gas permits in the City of Loveland as of June 1, 2014. A green dot indicates that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency that oversees the oil and gas industry, has issued a permit, but does not necessarily indicate that an oil or gas well is there. The light blue areas are oil and gas basins. The dark blue area on the map is the City of Loveland. There are few oil and gas wells within the city, although the city is close to an area of heavy oil and gas activity.

When it comes to regulating fracking, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees a significant portion of oil and gas activity in Colorado because it occurs on land they manage.[9] At the state level the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) oversees the permitting and tracking for all oil and gas wells in the state. This process includes reviewing and permitting all new wells, approving reclamation of well pad areas once drilling has been completed and reviewing mechanical equipment tests. The COGCC works with the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment and Colorado Air Quality Control Commission on dust and odor permitting.[10][11][12]

In Colorado, large oil and gas producers have been working with environmental groups and the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission to limit methane and VOC emissions. Colorado was the first state to regulate methane emissions. These rules require companies to control or capture 95 percent of emissions. Operators have 15 days to repair methane leaks and are subject to routine inspections. These regulations are expected to cost the industry between $40 million and $100 million.[13][14] Another controversial issue in Colorado has been the distance between homes, schools and other buildings and oil and gas wells. Before 2013 oil and gas wells were required to be 350 feet from high-density areas and 150 feet from homes. In 2013 the COGCC revised their standards and increased the setback minimum to 500 feet, although this setback can be waived.[15]


Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:[16]

Citizen-initiated ordinance to place a two-year moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing within the city of Loveland to fully study the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on property values and human health.

Shall an ordinance be adopted that places a two-year moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing within the city of Loveland to extract oil, gas or other hydrocarbons and on the storage and disposal of its waste products in order to fully study the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on property values and human health?

Yes___

No___ [17]

Full text

The full text of the proposed act was:[16]

Loveland Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act

Section 1. Purpose. To protect property, property values, public health, safety and welfare by placing a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing to extract oil, gas, or other hydrocarbons within the City of Loveland in order to study the impacts of the process on the citizens of the City of Loveland.

Section 2. Findings.

The people of Loveland hereby make the following findings with respect to the process of hydraulic fracturing within the City of Loveland:

  • The Colorado Constitution confers on all individuals in the state, including the citizens of Loveland, certain inalienable rights, including “the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness,” Colo. Const. Art. II, Sec. 3;
  • The Colorado Oil and Gas Act requires oil and gas resources to be extracted in a “manner consistent with protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources,” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 34-60-102;
  • The well stimulation process known as hydraulic fracturing is used to extract deposits of oil, gas, and other hydrocarbons through the underground injection of large quantities of water, gels, acids or gases; sands or other proppants; and chemical additives, many of which are known to be toxic;
  • The people of Loveland seek to protect themselves from the harms associated with hydraulic fracturing, including threats to public health and safety, property damage and diminished property values, poor air quality, destruction of landscape, and pollution of drinking and surface water;
  • Representatives from the State of Colorado have publicly stated that they will be conducting a health impact assessment to assess the risks posed by hydraulic fracturing and unconventional oil and gas development.

Section 3. Moratorium.

Therefore, the people of Loveland have determined that the best way to safeguard our inalienable rights provided under the Colorado Constitution, and to ensure the “protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources” as provided under the Colorado Oil and Gas Act, is to place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and the storage and disposal of its waste products within the City of Loveland for a period of two years in order to fully study the impacts of this process on property values and human health. The moratorium can be lifted upon a ballot measure approved by the people of the City of Loveland.

Section 4. Retroactive Application.

In the event this measure is adopted by the voters, its provisions shall apply retroactively as of the date the measure was found to have qualified for placement on the ballot.[17]

Support

Protect Our Loveland logo

Supporters

The group Protect Our Loveland was behind the initiative.[18]

In its legal battles both defending the proposed initiative against Sarner's lawsuit and suing the city to put the initiative on the ballot, Protect Our Loveland was supported by environmental attorney and activist Dan Leftwich. Leftwich was the founder of MindDrive Legal Services and Evolutionary Law and represented Frackfree Colorado, which was also a big supporter of the Loveland petition to put a hold on fracking.[19]

Arguments in favor

Anti-fracking activists and the Protect Our Loveland (POL) group posited that the effects of fracking were unknown, and the process was extremely contentious. They argued that, for the safety of the citizens of Loveland, fracking should not be allowed until its potentially harmful effects could be thoroughly studied and investigated.[18]

The following statement in support of the initiative was presented on the Protect Our Loveland website:[20]

Effects from the processes, transportation, refinement, storage and waste of unconventional oil and gas extraction on the health of any living thing, be it human, animal or vegetable, have not been fully studied.

The rush of the industry to drill in open spaces and municipal areas, regardless of the effects it may have on our health, safety and welfare, has made it necessary for us to be responsible for calling a time out while the information is gathered, the research conducted and the reports issued.

The information that is available to us so far, however, makes it clear that we need answers BEFORE the drilling begins.[17]

—Protect Our Loveland[21]

The Board of Directors of the group Physicians for Social Responsibility voted to approve a statement about hydraulic fracturing on March 30, 2012. An excerpt of the statement found on the Protect Our Loveland website is below:[22]

PSR supports a precautionary approach that includes a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing until such time as impartial federal agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency develop and implement enforceable rules that provide adequate protection for human health and the environment from fossil fuel extraction processes that use hydraulic fracturing.[17]

—PSR Board of Directors[22]

POL volunteer Linda Sandahl said, “A lot of people don’t really know the process. People need to look it up and understand what could happen, what could happen down the road. We don’t want to be 10 years from now saying, ‘What the hell were we thinking?’”[23]

In a letter to the editor featured by the Reporter-Herald, Loveland resident Bob Massaro wrote:[24]

I went to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) website. My search yielded hundreds of spills that contaminated surface and groundwater. Yet, we are being told fracking has never polluted water. Lab reports of the contaminated water show carcinogens associated with gas operations are present. It makes no difference what part of the gas operation caused the problem — contaminated water was the end result.

This and other information leads me to one conclusion, we need time to be sure the information we are getting is accurate before we allow drilling in residential areas in Loveland. Please join me and vote "yes" on Question 1.[17]

—Bob Massaro, Loveland resident[24]

Opposition

Opponents

LEAP logo

The group Loveland Energy Action Project (LEAP) opposed the measure, as did the group Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development.[25][26]

On May 20, 2014, the Loveland city council voted five against four to pass a resolution in opposition to the anti-fracking initiative.[27]

Other opponents included:[23]


LovelandPolitics.com, "Loveland City Council votes 5-4 Against Anti-Fracking Moratorium," May 20, 2014

Arguments against

Opponents to prohibitions against fracking generally argued that there were no proven harmful effects of fracking and that to ban it would be to ban the many jobs and the economic boost that could come along with the successful operation of the oil and gas industry. Some also argued that to prohibit fracking constitutes a violation of property rights, claiming that landowners should have the right to access and extract the valuable oil and gas from their property.[28]

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Clark claimed that the true intent behind Protect Our Loveland was a full prohibition of fracking rather than a temporary suspension. Clark said, "We’ve already had a two-year or more moratorium on this thing. Nothing’s happened. The intent is not a moratorium, obviously. This group’s intent is a ban. I mean, it’s kind of obvious. They’re using this as a way to call a timeout—but they really want a ban.”[23]

Andy Peterson, who was the vice-president of Integrated Petroleum Technologies in Golden and was involved in the anti-Question 1 Loveland Energy Action Project, argued that the measure was vague in calling for a full study of fracking, while not providing any funding or ideas on how the city could have tackled such sophisticated research. Peterson said, “The city of Loveland is not equipped to study the matter. I would assume it would involve groundwater monitoring, epidemiological studies of affected populations . . . If the city has enough people to study the issue properly, then I maintain there’s too many people on staff.”Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

B.J. Nikkel (R), a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and leader of LEAP, wrote a guest opinion column for the Reporter-Herald condemning Question 1 as deceptive and inimical. Nikkel wrote that Question 1 was a way to "kick the can down the road and avoid developing a viable solution." He also criticized proponents of Question 1 who denied the harm in waiting to research fracking before allowing it. He listed the following negative outcomes of delaying oil and gas drilling activities such as fracking in the city through the approval of Question 1:[29]

  • It is a violation of private property rights and could cost taxpayers huge sums in lawsuits and government compensation to landowners denied access to the valuable minerals in their property.
  • It could endanger the over 500 jobs offered by the 52 companies related to energy development and production. Nikkel pointed out that the wages paid out by these companies to Loveland residents in 2012 alone amounted to over $37 million.
  • It would force the city to abandon significant tax revenue from the oil and gas industry, tax revenue essential to the operation of schools, firefighters and public safety services and the maintenance of the city's infrastructure.
  • It would be a step away from energy independence and towards reliance on Middle Eastern Oil. Nikkel argued that the encouragement of the Colorado energy industry, as one of the largest producers of oil and natural gas in the nation, is key in moving towards essential U.S. independence.

LEAP, "Vote No on Question 1," June 6, 2014

Nikkel also pointed out that the city had already called for a timeout on oil and gas drilling procedures, a delay that lasted for most of 2012 and part of 2013. He proposed that the state already provided stringent regulation of the industry and that Protect Our Loveland was operating under a larger agenda that wanted to hamstring the energy industry. Nikkel concluded by writing:[29]

Protect Our Loveland claims to only want "time outs" yet they openly support the outright energy ban agenda of several national multi-million dollar nonprofit organizations like FrackFree Colorado, Sierra Club and Food and Water Watch, who provide financial and other support to POL. These national groups set up shop in Colorado as a "testing ground" for banning hydraulic fracturing here, just as they did in other states across the country.

It takes time, effort and resources to respond to purposefully deceptive ballot measures like Question 1. It's cheap to market fear and deception — but costly to deal in the facts. Question 1 is just plain reckless. Vote "No" and avoid the long list of unintended consequences Loveland residents will face if it passes.[17]

B.J. Nikkel (R), a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives[29]

Editorials

  • The Loveland Reporter-Herald: The editorial board of the Loveland Reporter-Herald wrote an article urging voters to reject Question One. The Herald staff said that the wording of the initiative created bad, restrictive policy on a process that can be done safely with the right regulation. The editorial especially criticized Protect Loveland because it chose to insist on banning fracking until scientists and the city could "fully study the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on property values and human health." The article insisted that the word "fully" would have allowed the fracking suspension to be renewed over and over again, as research opportunities on the multi-faceted effects of fracking could be boundless. Below is an excerpt of the editorial:[30]

LEAP, "Why do I oppose a fracking ban in Loveland?," May 23, 2014

Fully.

For Loveland Question No. 1, the word is key to the argument of whether residents should support a two-year moratorium on the process of hydraulic fracturing for the development of oil and gas resources in Loveland city limits.

The question demands a two-year moratorium "to fully study the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on property values and human health."

When asked about their definition of the word, proponents responded they will know "fully" when they see it. But will they?

[...]

For many, this is a proxy fight about energy development anywhere and everywhere. No, support of a moratorium does not mean you are a hypocrite for using energy, any more than objecting to the smell or look of a feedlot should require someone to be a vegetarian. Opposition to it does not mean drilling should occur at all places at all times.

The question at hand is whether a moratorium is warranted in Loveland "to fully study" a process that has been studied and will continue to be studied. However, for some, it will never be "fully" enough.

That's what makes Question 1 such bad policy. It should be rejected.[17]

Loveland Reporter-Herald editorial staff[30]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in Colorado

Lawsuits

The group Protect Our Loveland tried to get the initiative on the November 5, 2013 ballot. The activists collected valid signatures in numbers exceeding the 2,253 required threshold to put their initiative on the ballot. When a lawsuit against the initiative petition was filed, however, the city council voted to postpone the ballot question until the resolution of the lawsuit. On December 17, 2013, during the last council meeting of the year, Councilor Phil Farley made a motion to bring the ballot question back to the table and possibly give it an election date. Judy Freeman, of Protect Our Loveland, had this to say to the city councilors about the fracking ban initiative and the ongoing lawsuit: "Only you have the authority to put the moratorium on a special election. You would save us and the taxpayers a lot of money by doing that tonight." But Farley's motion died without being seconded, leaving the issue to be settled the following year.[4]

The city council of Loveland originally decided not to put the measure on the ballot because Larry Sarner, a candidate for Colorado's 2nd Congressional District of the U.S. House, challenged the validity of the initiative petition in court, claiming an inaccurate count of registered voters. The city council could have put the measure on the ballot, subsequently invalidating it or removing it if the court ruled against the petitioners and in favor of Larry Sarner. Instead the council decided to keep the measure off the ballot until the court case was decided, leaving the possibility of a special election in the future. Ultimately the court ruled against Sarner and in favor of the clerk's certification of the initiative. Sarner announced plans to file an appeal to the court decision, which he ultimately dropped in a settlement with the city council.[4]

Protect Our Loveland sued the city for keeping the initiative off the ballot, claiming that the law states that once a petition is approved by the city clerk, as the "Loveland Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act" was, the city council had two options: adopt the proposed ordinance outright or hold an election "not less than 60 days and not more than 150 days after the final determination of petition sufficiency." Protect Our Loveland claimed that, no matter what the outcome of the Larry Sarner court case, it was illegal for the city not to hold an election. Even though Sarner filed an appeal in his case, and the end of the legal proceedings over the initiative had no clear end in sight, a court order on March 27, 2014, sided with initiative proponents, forcing the city council to move forward with deciding on an election date.[31][1]

Some city council members were afraid that, despite striving to avoid litigation at every step, they would face an expensive lawsuit over the measure. Many city council members described the city as being "between a rock and a hard place." Council member Krenning said, "We're not in a rock and a hard place, we're in the ozone. It doesn't matter what we do, we're going to get sued."[1]

Election date

The group Protect Our Loveland turned in approximately 6,000 signatures in early July of 2013 to qualify the initiative for the ballot. The county clerk certified that more than the required 2,253 signatures out of those submitted were valid, but, due to multiple lawsuits, the city council did not put the initiative on the November 5, 2013 election ballot.[3]

After the court order requiring the measure be presented to voters, the council first proposed June 24, 2014, as the election date in order to put the measure before voters in an expedited manner to make up for the long delay due to the lawsuit. The county clerk, however, was opposed to this election date, leading the city council to approve the July 29, 2014 election date, which allowed consolidation with the county election, costing an estimated $30,000 less than the June 24 date. Later, however, the date was changed again. True to form, the city council sought to avoid an appeals court lawsuit from opposing plaintiff Larry Sarner by agreeing to a settlement. In the settlement, Sarner agreed to drop the appeal if the city council changed the election date back to June 24, 2014. Opponents of the question were generally in favor of this date, which coincided with the primary election, in which Republicans had a full ballot, while those registered as Democrats had less reason to come out and vote. It was expected that the June 24, 2014 election date would see many more voters affiliated with a major party, while independent or unaffiliated voters could show less of a presence. The POL wanted a July 29, 2014 election date.[3][1]

According to Loveland City Clerk Terry Andrews, having the election date separate from the county caused all kinds of trouble for the city. Andrews said that many additional costs cropped up because the city had to perform election duties previously attended to by the more equipped county. Andrews said, “We had no infrastructure because we haven’t had our own election in 20 years." After explaining the situation, Andrews summarized by simply saying, "Its [sic] a zoo."[5]

Similar measures

2014

See also: Notable 2014 local measures

Local measures

Defeatedd City of Loveland Two Year Fracking Suspension Initiative, Question 1 (June 2014)
Defeatedd Youngstown "Community Bill of Rights" Fracking Ban Charter Amendment (May 2014)
Defeatedd Johnson County Fracking Ban Referendum (March 2014)

Statewide measures

Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Colorado Fracking Ban Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Michigan Fracking Ban Initiative (2014)

2013

Local

Approveda Question 300: City of Lafayette "Community Rights Act" Fracking Ban Amendment
Approveda Question 300: Broomfield Five Year Fracking Suspension
Approveda Question 2A: City of Fort Collins Five Year Fracking Suspension
Approveda Question 2H: City of Boulder Five Year Fracking Suspension

See also

News articles

External links

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Support

Opposition

Additional reading

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Reporter-Herald, "Loveland fracking vote to be July 29," April 8, 2014
  2. Greeley Tribune, "Across northern Colorado, measures banning fracking in municipalities likely to pass," November 5, 2013
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Reporter Herald, "Loveland fracking vote moved to June 24," April 16, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Reporter-Herald, "Loveland City Council declines to take up fracking election proposal," December 18, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 Coloradoan.com, "Loveland fracking vote on separate ballot from county," June 10, 2014
  6. Leeds School of Business, Business Research Division, University of Colorado Boulder, "Hydraulic Fracturing Ban, The Economic Impact of a Statewide Fracking Ban in Colorado," March 2014
  7. Daily Reckoning, "Oil Shale Reserves," accessed April 23, 2014
  8. Leeds School of Business, Business Research Division, University of Colorado Boulder, "Hydraulic Fracturing Ban, The Economic Impact of a Statewide Fracking Ban in Colorado," March 2014
  9. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, "Fracking on BLM Colorado Well Sites," accessed May 9, 2014
  10. Stanford Law School Student Journals, "Local Government Fracking Regulations: A Colorado Case Study," January 2014
  11. Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, "Oil and Gas Odor and Dust Permitting," May 12, 2014
  12. Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, "Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) 805 series requirement," September 28, 2009
  13. The Denver Post, "Colorado adopts tougher air rules for oil, gas industry," February 25, 2014
  14. Stanford Law School Student Journals, "Local Government Fracking Regulations: A Colorado Case Study," January 2014
  15. Leeds School of Business, Business Research Division, University of Colorado Boulder, "Hydraulic Fracturing Ban, The Economic Impact of a Statewide Fracking Ban in Colorado," March 2014
  16. 16.0 16.1 Loveland City Council Resolution, accessed April 10, 2014
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 17.5 17.6 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Protect Our Loveland website, accessed April 10, 2014
  19. Loveland Politics, "Indian Cult Behind Colorado's Anti-Fracking Movement," October 10, 2013
  20. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Pol
  21. Protect Our Loveland website, "Our Health," archived June 19, 2014
  22. 22.0 22.1 Physicians for Social Responsibility website, "PSR Position Statement on Hydraulic Fracturing," March 30, 2012, archived June 19, 2014
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 The Colorado Observer, "Loveland Voters to Decide on Fracking Moratorium," May 26, 2014
  24. 24.0 24.1 Reporter-Herald, "Letters to the editor: We need more time to look at safety," June 3, 2014, archived June 23, 2014
  25. Loveland Energy Action Project, "About Us," accessed June 13, 2014
  26. Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, "All Eyes on Loveland," accessed June 13, 2014
  27. LovelandPolitics.com, "Loveland City Council votes 5-4 Against Anti-Fracking Moratorium," May 20, 2014
  28. Frac Focus chemical disclosure website, accessed April 11, 2014
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 Reporter Herald, "Question 1 will harm Loveland if passed," June 22, 2014, archived June 23, 2014
  30. 30.0 30.1 Reporter-Herald, "Moratorium is not merited in Loveland," June 8, 2014, archived June 23, 2014
  31. Courthouse New Service, "Group Wants Fracking Ban on Local Ballot," October 2, 2013