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A year ago, Longmont residents voted by a 60-40 margin to ban fracking within city limits—the first Colorado city to approve such a ban. (Longmont has since been sued for it.) This week, fracking heads back to Colorado ballots as residents in four more cities—Broomfield, Boulder, Lafayette, and Fort Collins—will vote on similar measures to limit drilling, either by placing a five-year- moratorium on the practice or, in the case of Lafayette, banning fracking altogether.
The term fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing, a process used to extract oil and gas locked in dense rock formations thousands of feet beneath the Earth’s surface. Much of the Colorado debate around the process is focused on the Front Range because an extremely productive section of the Niobrara—one of the country’s largest oil and gas basins—sits beneath Weld County. (By some accounts, the formation has the potential to produce billions of barrels of oil.) But for many, concerns over environmental and health impacts of fracking are more pressing than its potential profit. Last December, 5280 examined Colorado’s role in the country’s booming oil and gas game, and many of the questions surrounding the health concerns and safety of the process. Here, a closer look at what seems to have become the other F-word: Fracking.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock