Local officials from six states want local control of fracking

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Rachel Richardson

Environment America

Chatham County, N.C. – As state legislatures and state supreme courts around the country are barring local governments from preventing or even regulating drilling in their communities, Environment America announced broad support for local control of fracking from more than 250 mayors, county commissioners, city councilors, state legislators and other local elected officials from six states.

Many of fracking’s impacts – from air and water pollution to earthquakes and ruined roads – are felt most heavily at the local level, prompting communities from Texas to North Carolina to seek to restrict the practice. But the oil and gas industry and their allies in state governments are fighting back.

  • Fort Collins and Longmont, Colorado are the latest communities in the spotlight, with the state supreme court hearing oral arguments on the towns’ fracking restrictions last week.
  • In Ohio, state law hands exclusive authority to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to regulate and permit oil and gas wells, and attempted bans by local communities were rejected in the state courts earlier this year.
  • In Texas, the legislature adopted a law in May to bar local regulations of fracking, invalidating measures in Denton and other Texas communities.
  • In North Carolina, the General Assembly has prevented municipalities from placing any permanent regulations on fracking, prompting more than half a dozen local governments to pass temporary restrictions. 

“In the rush to attract gas drillers to North Carolina, the State Legislature has ruled that this one industry is more important than a local government’s responsibility to protect the health and welfare of citizens,” said Chatham County commissioner Diana Hales.

The battle over who regulates fracking comes as the scientific evidence against the drilling technique continues to mount. A recent draft assessment by the EPA on fracking’s impacts to drinking water revealed that every stage of the fracking water lifecycle is vulnerable to water contamination.  An analysis of recent peer-reviewed studies determined that 72 percent of them showed “indication of potential, positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination.”

The best way for states to protect public health from fracking is to follow the lead of states like Maryland and New York and put a stop to the dirty drilling practice altogether, Environment America said today. Until then, city and county governments should have the chance to protect their citizens from harm, said the group.

“Local communities bear the brunt of fracking’s harms and deserve clean water and clean air, so they deserve local control of fracking,” said Rachel Richardson, Stop Drilling program director with Environment America.