As Special Election Looms, Loveland’s Fracking Moratorium Debate Heats Up
Loveland voters will soon become the sixth Front Range community to weigh restrictions on hydraulic fracturing. The June 24, 2014 special election asks voters to decide whether to impose a two-year moratorium on fracking, the process of pumping sand, water and chemicals that are proprietary to oil companies into the ground to extract resources.
It’s been a long and winding road just to get to this point. A series of legal challenges delayed the issue from appearing in front of voters last November. Sharon Carlisle with Protect Our Loveland — which collected signatures to put the issue on the ballot — said the health impacts is one concern.
“We’re concerned for our children’s health. We’re concerned for property values,” Carlisle said. "We’re concerned for infrastructure costs. We’re concerned for the change in our community to come in and drill. And we have questions and we want answers.”
The city does not have any pending permits for drilling. But according to the Loveland Reporter-Herald, Anadarko Petroleum has leases on 2,400 acres on the eastern edge of town.
If approved, Question No. 1 would impose a two-year timeout on fracking to “fully study the impacts… on property values and human health.” Five communities have already passed restrictions on fracking, ranging from outright bans in Longmont and Lafayette to moratoriums in Fort Collins, Boulder and Broomfield.
Carlisle said there’s a common theme.
“The debate to me is clearly that the people are not being listened to,” said Carlisle. “Only the industry is being listened to.”
The group Loveland Energy Action Project (LEAP) is formally opposing the moratorium. Director BJ Nikkel said the two-year timeout will result in lawsuits from the oil and gas industry, initiating a costly process for the city and taxpayers. Longmont, Lafayette and Fort Collins — communities that have all passed voter-approved restrictions—are currently embroiled in lawsuits
“It’s just very poorly written. There are so many consequences that can befall the city. Even the local newspaper opined against the moratorium and asked people for a no vote,” said Nikkel.
The city of Loveland also approved a resolution 5-4 opposing the moratorium, citing litigation costs and the economic impact of a moratorium.
So far, LEAP has greatly outspent Protect Our Loveland 35 to 1. Most of LEAP’s campaign dollars come from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.
Meantime, the debate in Loveland continues to heat up. Sharon Carlisle with Protect Our Loveland said the group’s yard signs are being stolen by people opposed to the measure. She said she filed a police report after signs were stolen out of her yard.
“We’re dealing with an opposition that does not deal with fair and square, does not believe in may the best man win,” said Carlisle.
BJ Nikkel with LEAP denied the sign-stealing allegations. She said her group has also seen signs and a banner stolen.
“Things like that happen in campaigns. It’s certainly not something we do or practice,” she said. “Certainly I don’t want to impugn their motives in this either.”
Ballots were mailed to 45,000 registered voters in Loveland June 3, 2014. Voters have until 7 p.m. June 24 to return their completed ballots to Loveland City Hall.