In the recent November 2013 election, three of four northeast Colorado communities voted in support of a five-year ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Hydraulic fracturing is a process for extracting natural gas and petroleum from underground rock that has proven to be one of the most contentious legal issues of the electoral season in northern Colorado.
The fracking ballot initiative passed overwhelmingly in the city of Boulder, with 76 percent of voters in approval. 58 percent of Lafayette residents approved the ban, as did 55 percent of those voting in Fort Collins. The measure was defeated narrowly in nearby Broomfield, according to an International Business Times article. (“Three Colorado Cities Vote in Favor of Anti-Fracking Measures, While Initiative Fails in Broomfield by 194 Votes.”)
Fracking has proven to be one of the most divisive and controversial innovations in modern drilling and petroleum extraction technology. Proponents regard the technique, which involves the use of highly pressurized liquid to break up subterranean shale rock in order to release natural gas trapped inside, as a revolutionary solution to ongoing energy issues in the United States. But some environmental activists decry its use, arguing that fracking pollutes groundwater and may cause other lasting negative ecological effects. Overall, fracking has driven considerable debate over the continued use of fossil fuels in this country and the future of U.S. energy policy. Uncertainty about the practice has even prompted Vermont, in May of this year, to pass a statewide ban on the practice, at least until more scientific research of its long-term effects has been conducted. (“Vermont Becomes 1st State to Ban Fracking – Democracy Now!”)
The ongoing conflict between economic necessities and the desire to preserve and protect the natural environment remains at the forefront of the current fracking debate in the United States and elsewhere.
Russell Mendell, director of Frack Free Colorado, a grass-roots public advocacy group, has recently spoken out on this matter. As reported by the International Business Times, Mendell said in a statement,
When you have an industry that is exempt from the most basic provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act, something is obviously wrong. This says that the fracking industry cannot survive unless it passes the cost of doing business – be it health effects or air and water contamination – onto the communities in which they are drilling.
The concerns voiced by Mendell and others, however, are not universal. Former Colorado State House Representative B.J. Nikkel, who has advised private companies interested in opening the Front Range area to fracking, told the Daily Camera that the election results in Broomfield are more likely to reflect divided, but still very open, public opinion on this subject.
As the debate moves from places like Boulder and Lafayette – which come with highly Democratic constituencies – to purple Colorado, you're going to see a different outcome,
Nikkel said. "This is round one in a much longer match."(“Anti-fracking Measures Win in Lafayette, Boulder, Fort Collins.”)
While the two opposing camps in the current fracking debate continue to square off, consumers and investors are warned to take heed of potentially deceptive energy-related investment schemes. A November 15, 2013 press release from DORA, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Securities, reports that the state Commissioner has filed to appeal a trial court ruling that “purported joint venture interests in oil and gas well drilling operations purchased by … investors are not securities, and therefore are not subject to the protections for investors that exist under the Colorado Securities Act.” The case in question, Fred Joseph vs. HEI Resources, Inc., f/k/a Heartland Energy, Inc, et al., involved the Commissioner’s allegations that the defendants had used “boiler room” style, high-pressure sales tactics in order to push unwitting investors toward questionable investment opportunities in the oil and gas drilling sector. The Commissioner concluded the press release by noting that, "This issue is of vital importance to investor protection. Investments that are sold to the public by cold calling strangers with commissioned salesmen are exactly the type of investments that our securities law was intended to address. Letting this ruling stand would serve as an injustice to the investing public." (“Colorado Securities Commissioner Appeals Court Ruling in Oil and Gas Lawsuit.”)
Within the swirl of ongoing debate about fracking, energy policy, consumer interests and environmental protection, one issue remains relatively clear: fracking is here to stay and consumers are urged to inform themselves about its potential risks and benefits.