Aunt Edna has questions about activist efforts in various states to achieve ‘local control’ over oil and natural gas development.
What is local control?
- Local control is an attempt to give a city, town or county permit and oversight authority over oil and natural gas development including processes such as hydraulic fracturing. This would include the ability to ban oil and natural gas operations.
Why does it matter?
- State regulatory bodies take the lead on regulating the oil and natural gas industry. This is because these regulators have the resources and the expertise to permit and oversee the safe and effective development of the oil and natural gas resources found within their state.
- While states are the primary regulator, local governments play an important role in working closely with oil and natural gas operators to manage surface impacts.
- This system has worked well for decades, and allows each level of government to appropriately manage their oversight responsibilities.
What is the ultimate goal of local control activists?
- In recent years, anti-oil and natural gas activists have been pressuring cities, towns and counties across the country to impose their own technical regulations on top of, and sometimes in conflict with, established state regulations.
- These efforts are pitched to communities as a way to give them more say in the development process. But, in fact, activists’ desire for increased local control is usually nothing more than a disguised effort to ban oil and natural gas development.
To help explain it, we created a short video.
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Where is this happening?
- California: In Monterey County, Measure Z passed in November 2016 to ban hydraulic fracturing and prohibit new wells and produced water injection in the county. After the passage of Measure Z, a number of energy companies and royalty holders filed suit based on precedent and the letter of the law: that Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) regulatory authority preempts local regulations that might contradict state regulations. In December 2017, an intended decision was issued by the Monterey County Superior Court determining that Measure Z’s ban on new wells and wastewater injection are preempted and invalid by existing state and federal regulations. Hydraulic fracturing is not currently used in Monterey County, so the judge’s intended decision left this ban in place, but should Monterey County attempt to enforce the ban it could be challenged in the courts.
- Texas: After activists successfully pushed a ban on hydraulic fracturing in the city of Denton, the Texas Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a bill that states communities cannot preempt or supersede the regulatory authority of the State. Activists introduced two setback bills during the 2017 Texas legislative session, although neither came up for a vote.
- Colorado: In 2013, activists worked to pass local bans or moratoria in Ft. Collins, Longmont, Lafayette, Broomfield and Boulder. In 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that these bans and moratoria are “invalid and unenforceable” because they preempt state laws. But activists continue to push for local control via the legislature, the courts, and the ballot box. In 2017 the City of Broomfield passed Question 301, which could serve as a de facto ban on production operations and run afoul of the state Constitution.
What can you do?
- If asked about local control and what it means, share this video. To share via social media, click here.
‘Answering Aunt Edna’ is a recurring series that is designed to help CAN members answer tough questions from their friends, family and neighbors.