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Coalition Acts to Protect Longmont’s Constitutional Right to Ban Fracking

Energy

Earthworks

Despite over half a million dollars spent by the fossil fuel industry in Longmont, Colorado, residents voted Nov. 6 to make the city the first to ban fracking in the state.

A coalition of community, public health, consumer and environmental organizations filed a motion yesterday in the Weld County District Court to intervene in the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Longmont’s ban of the oil and gas practice known as fracking and related surface activities, such as storage of toxic post-fracking fluids. This ban was instituted by the citizens of Longmont in an amendment to the City Charter, Article XVI, the Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act.

The people of Longmont by an overwhelming vote of 60 percent (more than 25,000 people), voted in the November 2012 election to amend the City Charter to ban fracking, affirming their intention “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.” This historic ballot measure was spearheaded by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont (Our Longmont).

“We are taking this action because we hope to affirm the rights of citizens and communities to guarantee a safe and healthy environment for themselves and future generations,” said Michael Harris, director of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Environmental Law Clinic. “We are honored to represent Our Longmont, Food & Water Watch, Sierra Club and Earthworks.”

The Colorado Constitution confers on all individuals certain inalienable rights. These rights are expressed in the Colorado Oil and Gas Act, which requires that oil and gas resources be extracted in a “manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety and welfare.”

“The extraction process of hydraulic fracturing has not been proven to be safe,” said Kaye Fissinger, managing member of Our Longmont. “Further, the State of Colorado has created a situation where the commission that oversees the oil and gas industry has an inherent conflict of interest. It cannot simultaneously foster the development of oil and gas and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens.”

“The dangerous, toxic practice of fracking has been a matter of grave importance to the people of Longmont since October of 2011,” said Michael Bellmont, spokesperson for Our Longmont. “To assure the protection of those in our community, Our Longmont undertook a petition drive to place the charter amendment on the ballot. In November, our citizens exercised their rights to self-determination, also guaranteed under Article XX of Colorado’s Constitution. In light of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s attack, it is necessary that citizens participate in the judicial process to guarantee our constitutionally protected rights. It is for this reason Our Longmont and others have moved to intervene,” Bellmont said.

Food & Water Watch provided invaluable assistance to Our Longmont throughout the effort to qualify and pass Longmont’s charter amendment. Sam Schabacker, mountain west regional director for the organization, said, “We were delighted to be able to help the citizens of Longmont prohibit the dangerous industrial practice of hydraulic fracking and are pleased to be able to continue to support them. We have every confidence that the courts will reject the claims of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and preserve Longmont’s constitutional and home rule rights.”

According to Eric E. Huber, senor managing attorney for the Sierra Club Environmental Law Program, “This lawsuit could have a precedential effect throughout Colorado as other communities work to pass similar prohibitions on fracking and the disposal of its waste products within their boundaries.”

Bruce Baizel, director of Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project, said, “The citizens of Longmont took this action because they don’t trust state regulators to protect them. Rather than sue communities acting to protect their public health, industry and the state should be addressing legitimate community concerns by putting the public’s health before industry profits.”

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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