NACCHO Case Study Examines the Legalities of Fracking Bans

“Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, et al. v. City of Longmont: A Stymie to Local Fracking Bans or Just the Beginning?” is a new NACCHO case study that examines the legalities of the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” ban issued in Longmont, CO, in 2012. The case study helps local health departments better understand state preemption issues, the ways courts evaluate preemption claims, and the challenge of issuing a local fracking ban or moratorium. This is the second publication in a suite of resources NACCHO is producing related to fracking.

Fracking is a technique the oil and gas industry uses to extract gas from underground shale formations; it is the process of injecting water, chemicals, and sand into an underground well with the use of high-pressure machinery in order to create fissures through which natural gas can escape. It’s a highly controversial process due to the numerous possible side effects that have been linked, including: water quality issues, wastewater spills, air quality issues, climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, and socioeconomic and environmental justice issues, among others.

To address such issues, in 2012, Longmont, CO, decided to ban fracking within city limits rather than risk the community’s health with exposure to the possible negatives the industry might have brought. This initiated a clash between state and local interests, with the state claiming the ban wasn’t legal. Both sides have since been involved in costly litigation that has escalated all the way to the state supreme court.

This case study can help provide local health departments in jurisdictions considering a fracking ban with a real world example of what is involved in such a ban, and what the ramifications on instating one might be. For more general information on fracking, download “Hydraulic Fracturing: What Local Health Departments Need to Know,” the first in NACCHO’s suite of fracking resources. It introduces health departments to the issue, provides a brief overview of the various impacts and associated controversies, and offers guidance on the ways to mitigate potential harm from fracking.

About Katie Regan

Katie Regan serves as the Communications Specialist for Environmental Health, Pandemic Preparedness, and Catastrophic Response at NACCHO. Her work includes promoting local health departments' best practices through NACCHO's various storytelling and communications channels. Twitter: @katiejregan

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