A state court in New York issued two unanimous decisions last week upholding local bans on oil and gas activity. The court found that having a state policy on the efficient development of oil and gas resources – a policy which many states have – does not equate to an intention to require oil and gas drilling operations to occur in each and every location where the resources are present, regardless of existing land uses.
These decisions in favor of local governance – the heart of our democracy – will send earthquakes through the oil and gas industry, as they represent the biggest fissure yet in the industry’s long efforts to wall off oil and gas regulation at the state level.
Meanwhile, halfway across the country, Colorado governor Hickenlooper refuses to see the impacts of drilling, but says he can bear witness to the harm that such local bans might do to the economic interests of this most profitable industry.
In the governor’s view, to ban fracking would be to deprive some mineral rights holders access to their property.
Yet, the available science out there on the impacts of oil and gas air emissions shows that the closer you live to oil and gas facilities, the more likely you are to have significant negative health impacts.
It also shows clearly that oil and gas facilities are significant contributors to ozone and ozone is directly linked to significant negative health impacts to those with asthma.
The blind governor also cannot seem to see the data that his own oil and gas commission has collected which shows hundreds of water contamination cases each year due to oil and gas facilities.
There has not been a month in the past four and a half years where there have not been at least two new water contamination cases in Colorado due to oil and gas activity.
Yet the frack fluid sipping governor has thrown his political muscle behind efforts to strip pending legislation of the only requirement that would change oil company behavior for the better: minimum fines for operators who violate the rules.
If this governor wants to be seen as a ‘fair witness’, he could state publicly that his oil and gas agency will not tolerate rule-breakers, and will impose a 3 strike rule on companies that can’t seem to comply with regulations. Or he could simply state that it is his administration’s policy, because the oil and gas agency cannot adequately inspect and enforce its own regulations, that local governments are welcome to enact stricter regulations – until such time as the state agency can correct its enforcement problems.
Until that time, Governor Hickenlooper, by his actions and his willful blindness to the impacts of this intensive industrial activity, simply encourages local governments to enact bans on drilling.