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Hickenlooper Threatens To Sue Any Town, City That Bans Fracking

DENVER (CBS4) - Gov. John Hickenlooper says he won't tolerate cities and towns that ban oil and gas drilling within their borders and he promises to take them to court.

John Hickelooper
Gov. John Hickelooper talks with CBS4's Shaun Boyd about fracking (credit: CBS)

CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd sat down with the governor, who was blunt. He told Boyd the state will sue any local government that bans hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the drilling technique that uses high-pressure water and chemicals to extract natural gas.

"Nothing makes me less happy then to have to be in a lawsuit with a municipality," Hickenlooper said.

If that's true, the governor is an unhappy man these days. Four months after suing the city of Longmont for banning fracking, the state now plans to go after Fort Collins after its city council gave initial approval of a ban on fracking this week.

"The bottom line is, the way we have a split estate in this part of the world – pretty much all of the western United States -- someone paid money to buy mineral rights under that land," Hickenlooper said. "You can't harvest the mineral rights without doing hydraulic fracturing, which I think we've demonstrated again and again can be done safely."

But anti-fracking activists point to a spill near Windsor where 84,000 gallons of fracking fluid spewed out this month. State regulators say a spill that size is rare and they found no groundwater contamination.

Still, with 50,000 active wells in the state, opponents are pushing for bans statewide. The governor put them on notice by issuing a warning to any city that bans fracking.

"That's a taking from their own citizens," he said. ""Essentially what they're saying is, 'We ban anyone from getting those minerals out from what they bought, from what they paid for. It's not fair."

"So you'll go around the state and sue every city and county that passes a ban?" Boyd asked Hickenlooper.

"We have to, we have no choice," he responded.

Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat says while it's the state's right to sue, Fort Collins is a home-rule city and they want to make their own land-use decisions.

The city council takes a final vote on the ban next week. It passed 5-2 on its first reading.

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