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Gas and oil group looks at local control

Lachelt: Embrace county, municipal rules

LOVELAND – A natural-gas and oil task force weighing local control issues on Thursday heard from local government representatives who offered diverse perspectives.

The 19-member task force is meeting by order of Gov. John Hickenlooper, who convened the task force after controversy concerning how local governments regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Local governments have attempted to enact their own rules and regulations, either through city council or a vote of the people. But court cases have blocked those rules, favoring state law over a patchwork of local rules and regulations.

Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones – speaking during the first day of a two-day session in Loveland – said it is critical for local governments to be able to craft their own governance.

“Local communities know what’s best for them,” Jones said.

Gas and oil is critical to economic development in some communities, but in Boulder, she said, it is detrimental because high environmental standards support scenic views that fuel tourism.

Several local governments are asking for authority over bans, setbacks from wells, noise, health standards, the number of permits issued, zoning, and surface impacts, among other issues.

La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, a Durango resident who is co-chair of the task force, said after today’s meeting, she believes the task force is closer to recommending legislation. It takes a two-thirds vote to send proposals to the Legislature.

After Loveland, the task force will meet in Rifle on Dec. 10.

“I would hope that we advance strong recommendations that embrace the authority of local governments to regulate development,” Lachelt said.

Outside the meeting today protesters were assigned an area in which they could demonstrate, with signs in hand that read, “Hit the road frack, at least 2,000 back!” About 250 people packed the meeting, many offering comment.

But not all local government representatives argued for local authority that would allow for the prohibition of fracking. Weld County, for example, pointed to the critical economic impact gas and oil has on its community.

“We have found balance ... between urban and rural communities,” said Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer. “We believe the goals of the executive order have already been addressed because we already have the local government authority.”

pmarcus@durangoherald.com

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