FIRESTONE — The town board of trustees unanimously approved Feb. 27 special use permits for oil and gas exploration on land abutting Longmont, which has banned hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
The approved well sites are on land immediately southeast of Union Reservoir. Firestone annexed the Union neighborhood in 2008, which triggered a series of lawsuits between the two municipalities.
Although the drill sites start on Firestone locations, the fracking procedure can pull resources up from across the municipal boundary.
Mayor Chad Auer recounted the 2010 ordeal in which Longmont sued Firestone and — in seven lawsuits — the judge ruled in Firestone’s favor and asked Longmont to pay for court fees.
“Based on my experience, these types of annexation disputes are not unusual, but they don’t have to end poorly. We can come up with other options,” Auer said.
Firestone offered a compromise land-use proposal to Longmont that included a parks and trail corridor on the western portions of the annexed properties.
“This would be a huge buffer,” Auer said of the offer. “It’s better than nothing. From Firestone’s perspective, we didn’t have to come up with a compromise.”
The compromise allowed both communities to protect their open space areas and have a 10-acre Union Park overlooking Union Reservoir.
Auer said Longmont controls the majority of the land around the reservoir and that the town could deannex the trail corridor (while still owning it) and thus create a disconnection between the two communities. He also said at the time that Firestone could limit its planned western urban growth to approximately Fairview Street.
The cease fire between the two communities has held in the interim, but last year Longmont banned fracking with an amendment to the city’s charter.
“The well stimulation process known as hydraulic fracturing is used to extract deposits of oil, gas, and other hydrocarbons through the underground injection of large quantities of water, gels, acids or gases; sands or other proppants; and chemical additives, many of which are known to be toxic,” the Longmont amendment reads. “The people of Longmont have determined that the best way to safeguard our inalienable rights provided under the Colorado Constitution, and to ensure the ‘protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources’ as provided under the Colorado Oil and Gas Act, is to prohibit hydraulic fracturing and the storage and disposal of its waste products within the City of Longmont.”
The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission responded with lawsuits challenging Longmont’s ban.
Citing those lawsuits, Longmont city spokesman Rigo Leal said the city couldn’t respond to Firestone’s actions.
“As you know, we’re being sued by the state of Colorado on two different fronts regarding oil and gas,” Leal said. “And therefore, on the advice of our city attorneys, we aren’t making any comments about oil and gas regulations while we’re being sued.”
Synergy Resources Corp., the company that applied for the oil and gas permits, has signaled that it will hold its exploration efforts until the state lawsuits are resolved.
Contact Ben Wiebesiek at
303-659-2522, ext. 205, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.