INDIANAPOLIS - Following the United States Conference of Mayors here this weekend, over 30 mayors from more than a dozen states issued a statement today urging state and federal leaders to uphold local control of drilling.
In their statement, the mayors said they opposed moves by both state and federal officials limiting the ability of communities to protect themselves from the harms of industrial fracking. “The growing trend of preemption is alarming,” the mayors wrote.
Many of fracking’s impacts – from air and water pollution to earthquakes and ruined roads – are felt more heavily at the local level, prompting over 500 communities across the country to restrict the practice. But the oil and gas industry and their allies in government are fighting back.
Last year, a federal court weighed in on local control of fracking for the first time, striking down a fracking ban in Mora County in rural New Mexico.
“This notion of local control – that we have the right to come together with our neighbors and make our own choices on issues that threaten our public health or quality of life– is a long-standing American tradition, and we should reject attempts to limit it,” said Mayor Javier Gonzalez of Santa Fe, New Mexico, one of the statement’s signers.
The Colorado Supreme Court struck down fracking bans in Longmont and Fort Collins in May.
"It's essential that local municipalities have control because local elected officials understand the pulse of their community and voice of their constituents," said Mayor Nicole Nicoletta from Manitou Springs, just outside of Colorado Springs. "Studies have shown the potential negative impacts of fracking and we need to be able to examine that at the local level."
In Florida, a state senate committee narrowly defeated a bill that would have preempted local government control.
“As fracking continues to become a relevant discussion in our communities, it is more practical that cities and counties have local jurisdiction and control,” said Mayor Randall P. Henderson, Jr. of Fort Myers, Fla. “Citizens have an outright interest in receiving respectful due process and understanding of the facts of fracking, and therefore, an opportunity to weigh in as stakeholders.”
State governments in Ohio, North Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma have also acted to limit local control of fracking.
The battle over who regulates fracking comes as the scientific evidence against the drilling technique continues to mount. A draft analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on fracking’s impacts to drinking water revealed that every stage of the fracking water lifecycle is vulnerable to water contamination.
“The best way for states to protect public health from fracking is to follow the lead of states like Vermont and New York and put a stop to the dirty drilling practice altogether,” said Rachel Richardson, Stop Drilling program director at Environment America, the group that organized the statement. “Until then, city and county governments should have the chance to protect their citizens from harm.”
“We urge our state and federal leaders to affirm the ability of localities to protect the health and quality of life of residents against the widespread expansion of industrial fracking into their communities. The best policy is to leave decisions over these local impacts to local governments and let the democratic will of their residents and other stakeholders be heard,” concludes the mayors’ statement.