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Hickenlooper faces calls from DC to LA for all-out fracking ban

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DENVER -- A day after celebrating a compromise between the oil and gas industry and environmental groups on a new set of air quality rules to reduce emissions from Colorado well sites, Gov. John Hickenlooper faced new calls Tuesday for an all-out ban on hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", from liberals on both coasts.

In Washington, Congressman Jared Polis, D-Boulder, blasted the state's rules around natural gas extraction, approved last year, and touted by Hickenlooper as a national model.

"The fracking rules are overseen by an oil and gas commission that is heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry," Polis said on the House floor.

He also said that homeowners "don’t have at their disposal the independence or the ability to enact real penalties for violations of our laws and their charge is not first and foremost to protect homeowners and families and health."

"We respect the Congressman representing his constituents, and we understand the genuine anxiety and concern of having an industrial process close to neighborhoods," said Hickenlooper's spokesman, Eric Brown, later Tuesday. "In Colorado, the Constitution protects the rights of people to access their property above and below ground. Colorado has a robust and leading-edge regulatory process for oil and gas drilling and a collaborative relationship with environmental groups and the energy industry. We all share the same desire of keeping our air and water safe."

Brown also noted the proposed air quality regulations outlined Monday that, if approved by the Air Quality Control Commission, would make Colorado the first state in the country to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas well sites.

"These rules – and earlier efforts that include mandatory disclosure of fracking ingredients; greater protections and setbacks for operating near neighborhoods; and significant expansion of water sampling before and after drilling – make Colorado a national model and leader in environmentally protective energy production," Brown said.

Polis, who saw his own vacation home impacted by fracking when a well was drilled right across the street earlier this year, is also increasingly in step with constituents across the northern Front Range, who have responding to an oil and gas boom by approving fracking moratoriums in four communities earlier this month.

"Homeowners are concerned about what this is going to do to their property values," said Sam Schabacker with the group, Food and Water Watch. "Families are worried about what this is going to do to their kids' health.

"The governor and the industry is failing to protect our public health, our safety and our property. It's not a question of trying to make it a little bit cleaner so the governor can appease his oil and gas friends.

"Fundamentally, these people do not want fracking."

On Tuesday, a bevy of Hollywood celebrities joined the increasingly vocal opposition to fracking, appearing in a new advertisement asking Hickenlooper, "What the frack?"

"Fracking makes climate change worse," says Emmanuelle Chriqui, an actress known for her role on HBO's Entourage, during the 30-second spot that also features Malin Akerman, Lance Bass, Julie Bowen, Daryl Hannah, Hayden Panettiere, Amy Smart, Marisa Tomei and Wilmer Valderrama.

"This is letting him know that Hollywood will not have his back in 2016 if he continues to frack the people of Colorado," said Schabacker, alluding to Hickenlooper's possible presidential ambitions.

"They're calling for a ban on natural gas, a product that we all use every day," said B.J. Nikkel, a former Republican state lawmaker who now leads a group working to support energy development in Loveland.

"That's just a really irrational and extreme solution. Gov. Hickenlooper should be praised for bringing both sides together to come up with this compromise on the clean air rules. That's what we need to continue to do. Let's pull all of the sides together and come up with a plan and a compromise that's reasonable and rational and works for everybody."

Hickenlooper, who spoke to FOX31 Denver Tuesday morning, praised the compromise on air quality rules, noting that executives from the state's three biggest energy companies and top environmentalists stood with him on Monday in supporting it.

"There are a lot of things we can continue to improve, but it's a huge first step," Hickenlooper said.

The issue offers the governor an opportunity to remind voters of his centrist streak, of the consensus-driven businessman they elected in 2010, according to political analyst Eric Sondermann.

"It allows him to look like a centrist, not the captain of the Democratic left, as he appears after a tough legislative session," Sondermann said, also noting that the issue is not without serious risk.

"The risk is alienating the Democratic base. They may not give him much latitude to have that middle ground."

Related: Poll shows Hickenlooper's approval rating at 48 percent; governor has narrow edge over GOP challengers

11 comments

  • BJ

    lets just let jobs go if you want this gone. is it really that bad????? If we did not get that out of the ground do you think it would just stay there or would you be sitting in your living room one day and either all the power go out or a major gas pockets blow you out of your house. Does the product just stay in the ground and never grow or release? Can we regulate them, yes! Do we want it gone, NO!

  • Brad

    I don’t think people realize how many day to day products are hydrocarbon based, such as plastic bottles, even “BPA Free”. Wind turbines need this industry as these materials are used in the construction of the towers themselves and transportation from the production plant to the wind farm. Many products we get at the pharmacy are petroleum based. To consider an all out ban on an industry that provides so much is going too far. Especially, since the DJ Basin in CO has so much to offer for hundreds of years.

    Side note to the reporters and producers: If you are going to report on hydraulic fracturing, be sure to use actual “Fracking” sites in your report. Most of the video showed drilling rigs which have absolutely nothing to do with the hydraulic fracturing process.

  • fast45

    Every time a fracking company has a spill above ground, they release benzenes and other volatile hydrocarbons … yet these same companies would have us believe that what they pump underground is “safe.” If what they are doing is “safe” then why not just tell us the composition of their hydrostatic fluids? Answer: Because they are hideous poisons.

  • MBM

    I would love to see just one of these “celebrities” actually explain what fracking is or what it does. Betcha not a single one could. Stay out of our state, Hollywood!

  • youdressfunny

    Hollywood is clueless when it comes to facts and real science relative to fracking. What a bunch of “tards.”

  • Lisa Gunn

    what about the fracking of water and land done by the counties and banks and hopp law firm in western colorado,ask don corman he has insight,i will give you the paper work and surveys

  • Renee EnergyCitizen

    Brad – Agreed that the notion of banning hydraulic fracturing is misguided, and blatantly ignores the fact that this technique is safe, scientific and crucial to our energy future. If hydraulic fracturing is allowed to continue without these arbitrary obstacles, this time-tested process is capable of extracting 100% of our liquid fuels in the U.S. and Canada by 2024. This means freedom from foreign oil, millions of jobs and billions in economic contributions. Bans threaten to stall this progress – and overlook the strong environmental track record hydraulic fracturing has established over more than 60 years.

    -Renee, Energy Citizens Coordinator

  • fast45

    If Americans increased fuel efficiency of all vehicles by only 10% across-the-board then we wouldn’t need a drop of Arab oil, and we wouldn’t be debating poisoning our rock strata. Choose more efficient vehicles. Stop buying SUVs and pickups.

  • Fossil Free Future

    Many harmful and damaging undertakings are heralded as “progress.” Why? Because they are profitable for a few. Don’t be misled: fracking is a heavy industrial activity that devastates the environment and poses serious health concerns which have not been adequately studied.

    The truth is, horizontal drilling combined with fracking of shale formations is a very new technology which was conceived in the late 1990s and which didn’t really take off until Bush and Cheney passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which EXEMPTED fracking from the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and other environmental standards. Fracking as it’s being done today has been in existence for a mere eight years and has NO established track record. Studies to determine the long-term impact of fracking on health and environment are woefully few and are subjected to constant attack by the oil and gas industry and their representatives.

    Five Colorado cities in the fracking line of fire have enacted five-year moratoriums on fracking. Fracking can be fought, people! These moratoriums are prudent and well-considered and will provide time and perspective to determine whether fracking, a heavy industrial activity, is a safe and desirable process to allow near communities and population centers.

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