Boulder City Council members Tuesday night unanimously approved a one-year fracking moratorium, blocking oil and gas drilling permits in the city and on Boulder-owned open space properties.
Several council members also said they are warm to the idea of bringing forward a ballot measure in November to approve a longer-term ban -- a process that would involve study sessions and public hearings in coming months.
City Councilwoman KC Becker said voters need to send the message to their state legislators and governor about their opposition to hydraulic fracturing.
Prior to the council vote on the moratorium, she said: "This is a no-brainer."
The emergency ordinance passed by the council comes just before Boulder County's moratorium on new oil and gas applications is set to expire June 10.
Additionally, the City Council -- on first reading -- unanimously passed a measure prohibiting the use or sale of Boulder's water supply for fracking purposes. Before the ordinance is approved, it will require a second reading.
Several residents asked the City Council to go further by approving a longer fracking moratorium, an all-out ban or turning the issue over to voters.
"Please have as long a moratorium as possible -- and then renew it," said resident Cheryl Stevenson. "Why shouldn't we be an uncharted territory?"
Boulder resident Cecelia DeLuca echoed that sentiment, saying: "I want you to be brave, and I want you to be bold -- not just for Boulder, but for other cities that are looking for precedents."
An analysis by Boulder City Attorney Tom Carr determined a one-year moratorium was the safest option because it addresses public health and safety concerns while protecting the city against potential lawsuits.
Longmont -- which banned fracking in its city limits -- is defending itself against two lawsuits challenging the city's oil and gas regulations.
"I think the state has its hands full with Longmont right now," Carr said.
A long-term moratorium, city officials have said, could bring legal challenges that place city regulatory powers at risk. Carr said a moratorium extending beyond two years has yet to be tested.
Hydraulic fracturing -- or fracking -- involves pumping pressurized water, chemicals and sand down well bores to crack rocks and let loose petroleum and natural gas for easier extraction.
Roughly 40 people spoke during the public comment period, and all but one of them were opposed to fracking. Residents raised concerns about public health, the environment and even property values in the city.
Boulder resident Ben Binder was the lone voice during the public comment session defending fracking. He said the city attorney's analysis was biased and one-sided.
"The fear of fracking is based on a lot of false and exaggerated information," said Binder.
Boulder resident Donna Bonetti said the city is rich with scientists who specialize in climate issues. She suggested the city commission fracking studies and partner with scientists, including those from federal labs. While scientists explore safety, public health and water quality issues, the city, she said, should disallow fracking.
Scientists at the University of Colorado in 2012 secured a $12 million National Science Foundation grant to research fracking.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or email@example.com. ___