ANALYSIS: Movement for Local Fracking Control Gains Momentum

Nov 6, 2013

DENVER—Local control efforts beat out oil and gas companies in three out of four Colorado communities where fracking questions appeared on the ballot. These communities are the most recent to add their names to the growing list of municipalities that hope to take control of where fracking happens inside their borders. The rapidly growing movement for local fracking control underscores the urgent need for comprehensive reforms at the local, state, and federal levels.

The Center for Western Priorities assembled the following compilation of similar efforts, outside Colorado, that have succeeded in the past five years.

  • Pennsylvania. In 2010 the city of Pittsburgh took action to ban natural gas drilling within city limits. The ordinance was praised as a first-of-its-kind and led to action in several other communities across Pennsylvania, including Baldwin, Buckingham Township, Ferguson, Forest Hills, Harvey’s Lake, Murrysville, Philadelphia, and West Homestead.
  • New Mexico. There has been significant action to constrain fracking in New Mexico. Las Vegas Mayor Alfonso Ortiz signed an executive order that halted the issuance of any permits for natural gas and oil drilling within the city limits in July of that year until the city council passed “legal hydraulic fracturing regulations.” In Mora County, residents have taken the unique step of pre-testing water wells for contamination as a way to prove that fracking, should it ever occur, is responsible for contamination, and in May of 2013, Mora County became the first county in the nation to ban fracking outright.
  • Texas. From short term bans to setback rules, several communities in Texas have taken action to prevent fracking, including Flower Mound, Denton, Bartonville, and DISH.
  • Illinois. Communities across Illinois have taken action against fracking. An ordinance passed in the Village of Alto Pass to protect public health, air, and ecosystems, and to “safeguard the interests of future generations in this Village.” Other communities in the state such as Murphysboro, Pope County, Johnson County, Jackson County and the town of Carbondale passed resolutions to express support for state action to ban fracking until environmentally safe.
  • Indiana. In Indiana, the city of Terra Haute passed a two-year moratorium on fracking. The City Council wanted a moratorium passed until the city could be assured of the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. City Councilman John Millican said, “I think this resolution provides us with an opportunity to err on the side of caution.”
  • Iowa. Allamakee County in Iowa passed a temporary ban on fracking in February of 2013. The ordinance declared that a pause in new drilling permits was needed to study the effects of fracking and their impact on the County. The ban is in effect until July 2014.
  • Maryland. In March of 2013 the City of Baltimore passed an ordinance to ban the storage, treatment and disposal of fracking wastewater. In February 2013, the mayor of College Park urged a state fracking ban saying, “Fracking has been around for decades, but the fracking now being used to extract ‘unconventional’ oil and gas reserves is much more intensive and risky than conventional oil and gas drilling. The rapid expansion of this new form of fracking has brought rampant environmental, public health, and economic problems to communities all over the country.”
  • Michigan. Several towns and cities in Michigan have either passed bans or resolutions in support of bans. Municipalities that have passed bans in Michigan include, Cannon Township, Courtland Township, and West Bloomfield Township. Councils in Burleigh Township, Cross Village Township, Dearborn Heights, Detroit, Ferndale, Ingham County, Orangeville Township, Reno Township, Southfield, Thornapple Township, Waterford Township, Yankee Springs, and Ypsilanti passed resolutions in support of state or federal bans on hydraulic fracturing.
  • Minnesota. At least two bans have passed in the last two years in Minnesota. Houston and Goodhue County passed drilling moratoriums to better understand the impact of hydraulic fracturing. According to the Star Tribune, about 100 people packed a meeting room to support the Goodhue moratorium in 2011, 80 people came back two years later to plead for an extension of the ban.
  • North Carolina. In June of 2013, North Carolina passed an extension of a statewide drilling moratorium. More than a dozen communities around the state either passed resolution or wrote letters in support of the action.
  • West Virginia. The town of Lewisburg passed a ban on new permits for drilling in the Marcellus Shale in March of 2011. That same year the Pocahontas Free Libraries Board of trustees urged a drilling moratorium.
  • Wisconsin. Several communities in Wisconsin have passed drilling moratoriums to delay the practice until more is known about the effects of fracking on health and the environment. In 2011 the city of Eau Claire passed a drilling moratorium. In 2012, Ellsworth, Oak Grove, and Rock Elm followed suit.