The Board of Trustees of Erie, Colorado voted against imposing a moratorium on fracking in the Front Range town Tuesday evening. In the video-streamed event, the seven-member board consisting of the Mayor, the Mayor Pro-Tem and five trustees cast four votes against the one-year moratorium.
Representatives from Encana Corp. and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. were present for the meeting, as were industry groups and a number of local residents who were for and against the moratorium.
Memorandums of understanding (MOU) agreements between the two drillers and the township of Erie will continue. The agreements “contain best management practices the operators agree to use and are included as part of their state drilling permits,” according to a 27 January story in the Denver Post.
The moratorium was said by the Board of Trustees not to be seen as a vote against drilling in the area, but rather as a way to resolve issues stemming from vibration and noise problems generated by an Encana drilling pad near the Vista Ridge development, the Denver Post said. However, Encana and Anadarko representatives said the companies would give the town time for the two sides to resolve all issues without the need for a moratorium. Encana agreed not to submit any new permits for 90 days, and Anadarko said it was not planning to submit any permits for several months.
Last summer, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper appointed a task force to study the issues involved with oil and gas drilling near towns along Colorado’s Front Range after residents and environmental groups on one side, and oil and gas companies and business leaders on the other side, issued countering voter initiatives that could potentially have cost Colorado significant oil and gas revenues. Both sides agreed to drop the initiatives and wait for the task force to come up with its recommendations.
Oil and gas activity in the state of Colorado contributes significantly to state and local coffers, according to a September 2014 research paper by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. Nearly 34 000 people were employed in the upstream and midstream sectors of the oil and gas industry in Colorado in 2013, the study revealed, adding that those workers earned a total of US$3.5 billion. The industry also contributes to job growth in and out of the industry.
Prior to the Town Hall meeting, Vital for Colorado, a statewide coalition of more than 35 000 supporters of responsible oil and gas development, wrote to ask Erie Mayor Tina Harris and the Board of Trustees not to ban oil and gas development in Erie.
“The oil and gas industry has had a positive economic impact on Erie and its many businesses,” said Peter Moore, chairman of the board of directors of Vital for Colorado, in a statement. “We understand that industry development of any kind can present issues, such as noise and truck traffic, but in Colorado, there’s a process that allows local governments to work with energy companies to address such issues.”
“We very much appreciate the Board of Trustees’ action to continue responsible energy development and avoid the significant impacts of a moratorium,” said Energy Countil of West Weld Chairman Chad Auer in a statement following the vote. “The decision reflects the choice to pursue leadership rather than activism. Erie continues the example set by other communities in the state that looks for ways to balance the prosperity and value delivered by the energy industry with preservation of neighbourhoods and nature.”
The Energy Council of West Weld is a grassroots effort made up of business and community leaders in Weld County, Colorado.
Adapted from press release by Joe Green