Denver, Colorado — An activist group on Thursday backed off its earlier announcement that it would to try to get a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing on the Colorado ballot and said it would instead try to persuade Gov. John Hickenlooper to halt the practice.
Karen Dike of Coloradans Against Fracking said the group has not ruled out a campaign to put a ban on the 2016 ballot if the governor doesn't act.
"He should do the right thing and protect Colorado citizens, but if he doesn't, we'll look at other ways to achieve our goal, and our goal is to ban fracking in the state of Colorado," she said.
Dike previously said Coloradans Against Fracking planned to launch a petition drive to get a ban on the ballot after it became clear that a task force convened by Hickenlooper would not include a ban among its recommendations to ease conflicts caused by drilling. On Thursday, Dike said she had misspoken.
Hickenlooper, a Democrat and a geologist who once worked in the petroleum industry, said the state doesn't have sufficient evidence that hydraulic fracturing is harmful to support a ban.
"We can't find examples in Colorado, or more than one or two examples, where fracking has caused harm or been sufficiently dangerous to the public that would justify us to ban it," Hickenlooper told Colorado Public Radio in an interview broadcast Thursday.
Imposing a ban could open the state to lawsuits alleging an improper "taking" from the industry, he said. It would also threaten a $20 billion-a-year industry that provides 100,000 jobs in the state, he said.
State employment figures show that about 26,000 people were directly employed in the oil and gas industry in Colorado in 2013-14, including support operations. The industry claims a much large number based on an economic ripple effect.
New York regulators announced a fracking ban in December, citing unexplored health risks and raising questions about its economic benefits.