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Fracking Fight Reaches Denver’s Doorstep

A new anti-development coalition takes on the oil and gas industry.

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If 2014 was the year fracking wreaked havoc on Colorado’s political process, 2015 might be the year it lands squarely in Denver.

On Tuesday at noon, a newly formed campaign called “Don’t Frack Denver” will unveil its mission on the steps of the City and County Building. The coalition is led by the environmental group Food & Water Watch and includes supporters from a variety of faith, civic, and business organizations. The rally will feature renowned nature photographer John Fielder as keynote speaker, and several other officials from the community will also address the gathering before organizers head to Mayor John Hancock’s office to present its requests.

Among the group’s wishes is that the mayor and the Denver City Council issue a moratorium on fracking within Denver city limits and ask the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to disallow fracking that might contaminate the city’s water supply.

(Read about how lower oil prices are affecting fracking)

Don’t Frack Denver arose after recognizing that oil and gas developers plan to begin fracking on land around South Park and the South Platte River Basin, which provides about 40 percent of Denver’s supply of drinking water. Fracking efforts are also underway near Green Valley Ranch in northeast Denver.

“We know oil and gas exploration causes an average of two spills per day,” says Sam Schabacker, the Food & Water Watch Western Region Director. “It’s not a question of if, but when these spills will occur, and then how much it will cost to clean up, which will likely impact rate-payers here in Denver. But once a permit for a well is in place, there’s nothing a community can do.”

Schabacker says Tuesday’s rally is merely the beginning of Don’t Frack Denver’s efforts, and one of the group’s next steps will be to find some allies in the City Council and State Legislature. “We’re hopeful that the mayor and City Council will see that this is an issue of grave concern,” he says. “But the oil and gas industry has spent a lot of money and will do everything in its power to frack in our watershed and near our homes and schools.”

(More: 10 reasons for our energy problems)

Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.

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