FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) - The Fort Collins City Council has banned fracking within city limits, throwing down the gauntlet for possible legal action while other communities that are wrestling with the issue try to avoid confrontation.
The council voted Tuesday to impose the ban despite threats from Gov. John Hickenlooper, who said the state would sue any municipality that bans oil and gas development.
The governor says such restrictions would violate the state's authority over oil and gas regulation.
Mayor pro tem Kelly Ohlson said state regulators have no credibility with him, nor does the governor.
"I believe the governor should spend his time protecting the health and safety and welfare of citizens of Colorado rather than acting like the chief lobbyist for the oil and gas industry. In fact, I think he should literally quit drinking the fracking Kool-Aid," Ohlson said.
Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown said Wednesday that the next steps have not been determined.
"The governor takes no joy in suing local government. As a former mayor he respects local planning and control. He also has an obligation to uphold the law. The governor wants to be honest with local communities about the state's legal obligations. Bans like the one passed in Fort Collins violate state law," Brown said.
According to the Fort Collins Coloradoan (http://tinyurl.com/cq3x3ed ), Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, said the council should consider private property rights in making its decision. "The inability of a person to develop that mineral estate will be what leads folks to challenge your decision from a litigation standpoint. We think it's a very important point," Dempsey said.
Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman for the Colorado Attorney General's Office, said attorneys will meet with state officials soon to discuss potential next steps.
Meanwhile, the Loveland City Council approved incentives Tuesday for oil companies to follow higher standards than state regulations require, while not imposing conditions that would cause court challenges.
In Lafayette, anti-fracking activists turned up the heat on elected leaders Tuesday, submitting a petition with nearly 1,000 signatures that demands an immediate moratorium on any new drilling activity in the city.
Officials there say they want residents to have a chance to vote this November on what role oil and gas drilling should play in Lafayette, as Longmont did last year when voters there chose to ban hydraulic fracturing inside city lines.
The city of Longmont is already being sued by the state for its strict regulation of drilling. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, which represents the industry's interests, is suing Longmont over its fracking ban.
Hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, is a gas drilling process that blasts chemical-laden water deep into the ground. Environmentalists say the technique pollutes groundwater and the chemicals are unsafe.
Information from: Fort Collins Coloradoan, http://www.coloradoan.com