Communities have the right to protect public health and safety--even when it comes to fracking
Posted September 19, 2012
The state of Colorado is suing a local government that wants to protect its citizens from the harms of fracking. Does this sit well with anyone? The state is even opposed to a local government requiring water quality testing for families near fracking sites. It sounds to me like the state got a hold of the oil and gas industry's playbook.
Local governments in Colorado are outraged. More than 82 city and county officials just sent a letter to Governor Hickenlooper asking him to withdraw the lawsuit and explaining that "local governments have both the right and responsibility to take action to protect the public heath and well being of our citizens as well as the environment." (Earlier in the year, the Governor was featured in radio and newspaper ads for the industry.)
Indeed, as my colleague Kate Sinding points out in her blog: Over three quarters of a century ago, our Supreme Court held that communities have the right to enact local laws to protect “public health, safety, morals, and general welfare.”
Coincidentally, Kate just announced in her blog NRDC's new Community Fracking Defense Project to provide assistance to towns and other local governments that want added control over the siting of and/or protections against the harms of fracking in their communities. The NRDC initiative is being launched in states east of the Mississippi, but that doesn't mean it is only an issue in one part of the country. In addition to Colorado, there are efforts in Idaho to crush local governments and stop them from protecting their citizens.
Elsewhere, the situation is different. In Flower Mound, Southlake, and Grapevine, Texas, oil and gas faclities are prohibited within 1,000 feet of a home, school, fresh water well, public park, religious institution, public building, or hospital building. As Kate points out in her blog, in New York State, the courts have supported broad authority for municipalities to protect themselves against potential fracking, including through local bans on the practice. All communities should be free to to protect themselves and their future.
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