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Boulder City Council To Consider Fracking Moratorium Next Month

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In this March 29, 2013 photo, a worker uses a headset and microphone to communicate with coworkers over the din of pump trucks, at the site of a natural gas hydraulic fracturing and extraction operation run by the Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., outside Rifle, in western Colorado. The technique of hydraulic fracturing is used to increase or restore the rate at which fluids, such as petroleum, water, or natural gas can be recovered from subterranean natural reservoirs. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley) | AP

The Boulder City Council will consider a moratorium on fracking within city limits and on city-owned lands at its June 4 meeting.

Council members on Tuesday asked the City Attorney's Office to prepare a moratorium and present it at the first meeting in June. The moratorium

Environmental activists and concerned Boulder residents have pressed the city to adopt a moratorium. Councilwoman Suzanne Jones also asked for a moratorium at the council retreat in January.

Jones reiterated her concerns on Tuesday.

"I think our lands could well be at risk, and we need to protect them," she said.

City officials are working on several issues related to fracking, including updating the city's regulations on gas drilling, which were last updated in 1993, identifying wells on open space, protecting the city's water utility land and preparing an ordinance prohibiting the useof any city water in fracking.

A moratorium could give the city time to look at those issues before dealing with any potential drilling.

City Attorney Tom Carr said he needs to research the legal defensibility of a moratorium, particularly a 5-year moratorium, which was requested by activists, as well as the city's ability to extend a moratorium beyond city limits to open space in the unincorporated county.

Longmont has adopted regulations on fracking, and its voters approved a ban on the practice.

The state has sued Longmont over those decisions. Until those cases wind their way through the courts, there will be uncertainty over which types of regulations local government can enact. The state oil and gas commission considers the regulation of fracking its purview.

Councilman Ken Wilson said people should keep in mind that cheap natural gas is an important resource.

"The reason we're not freezing in this building is because we're burning natural gas," Wilson said.

Wilson pointed out the city's municipalization plans also depend in large part on cheap natural gas.

Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said the city still has a special interest in fracking because the lands vulnerable to oil and gas drilling are open space.

"We're not looking at generic lands," he said. "We're looking at open space that has been bought for preservation." ___

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